EPA Revises Farm Worker Protection Standards

Posted on 9/29/2015 by Roger Marks

On September 28, 2015, US EPA announced revised worker protection standards for farm workers exposed to pesticides on the job. The new standards will apply to agricultural workers who perform certain labor tasks in pesticide-treated crops and pesticide handlers who mix, load, and apply pesticides. According to US EPA, the rulemaking will affect about two million US workers.

EPA’s revisions expand the employee training requirements, put in place a minimum age requirement for handling pesticides, add hazard communication and recordkeeping requirements, and change standards for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Farm workers applying EPA regulated pesticides

“Immediate Family” Exemption Remains

The exemption granted for farm owners and their immediate family will remain in place and now include an exemption from the new minimum age requirement for handling pesticides. EPA also expanded the definition of “immediate family” to include aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and first cousins.

EPA’s Fact Sheet on the new rulemaking lists major changes to the worker protection standard, including:
  • Replacing the current five year re-training requirement with an annual training standard to inform farmworkers on required protections;
  • Expanding training to cover reducing take-home exposure from pesticides on clothing;
  • Adding a minimum age requirement: children under 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides;
  • Expanding posting of no-entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides;
  • New no-entry application-exclusion zones up to 100 feet surrounding pesticide application equipment;
  • Requirement to provide more than one way for farmworkers to access pesticide application information and Safety Data Sheets, i.e., post them centrally and make them available upon request;
  • New recordkeeping requirements: records of application-specific pesticide information and farmworker training must be kept for two years;
  • Whistle-blower protections;
  • Changes in PPE standards for testing, fitting, medical evaluation, and training;
  • Standardizing required amounts of water to be used for routine washing, eye flushing, and other decontamination activities; and
  • Continuing the exemption for farm owners and their immediate family, with an expanded definition of “immediate family.”
A pre-publication version of the EPA rulemaking is available here. EPA’s new pesticide exposure standards for farm workers will be posted to the Federal Register within 60 days and become effective about 14 months after publication.

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Tags: FIFRA, pesticides

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