Pesticide WPS—Will You Be Ready in January?

The deadline for compliance with certain elements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) amended Pesticide Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is this upcoming January. Today we’ll take a look at what you need to have in place to hit the ground running at the beginning of the New Year to comply with the WPS amendments and the time frame for the rest of the amendments. Tomorrow we will review the implications of a new report concerning pesticide-related worker illnesses and injuries.

Agricultural employers and handlers will be required to comply with most of the new WPS requirements by January 2, 2017, but compliance with other components is not required until January 1, 2018. Before we look what you need to have in place this January, let’s take a look at who “you” are, the reality of who is actually affected by the changes to the WPS.

Who’s Affected?

Well, it’s a standard to protect farm workers, so farms are affected.  Certainly true, but the impact of the WPS amendments go far beyond the farm fields. Those affected include not only owners, field supervisors, and workers who grow fruits and vegetables on farms, but also:

  • Pesticide applicators and pesticide trainers
  • Owners/employers on agricultural establishments that grow and harvest for commercial production:
    • Timber and trees in forests and nurseries
    • Plants in greenhouses and nurseries
  • Employers of researchers that help grow and harvest plants
  • Employers at commercial pesticide-handling establishments

What You Must Do for January 2017

On or by January 2, 2017, affected employers have must certain elements of the WPS amendments in place and implemented. These include the amendments pertaining to minimum age, hazard communication, notification of treated areas, entry restrictions, personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, and availability of decontamination supplies.

Let’s look at these new requirements you must implement by January.

Minimum age. Pesticide handlers and early entry workers (i.e., workers who enter a treated area after a pesticide application is completed but before a restricted entry interval (REI) for the pesticide has expired) must be at least 18 years old. One piece of good news here for industry is the exemption for immediate family members. The definition of “immediate family” has been expanded to also include all in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and first cousins.

Hazard communication. Pesticide application information and safety data sheets (SDSs) must be displayed at a central location within 24 hours of the end of the application and before workers enter the treated area. Both must be displayed for 30 days after the REI expires and be maintained for 2 years after the end of the REI. The application information and the SDSs must be made available upon request to workers, designated representatives, and medical personnel.

Notification of treated areas. Employers must post a warning sign if the REI of a treated area is greater than 48 hours for an outdoor application or greater than 4 hours for an enclosed space application, such as a greenhouse. Other than these two requirements, employers may opt for posting or oral notification unless the pesticide label requires both.

In addition, pesticide handler employers must provide notification before the application begins in some cases and within 2 hours of the end of the application in most cases. The exception is when the only change is less than 1 hour difference in application time.

Entry restrictions. For all outdoor production, no entry is allowed into a treated area of the application exclusion zone (AEZ). The AEZ is an area up to 100 feet around the application equipment during pesticide applications on farms, forests, and nurseries. The size of the AEZ depends on the type of application. The amended WPS includes revised descriptions of application methods.

PPE. Requirements for PPE concerning respirators have been expanded for handlers to include fit testing, training, and medical evaluation, regardless of label requirements, although the respirator specified by the label must be worn. Records concerning the completion of the fit test, training, and medical evaluation must be kept for 2 years.

Exceptions to the labeling-specified PPE for handlers when using closed systems is still allowed. However, the closed system must meet a performance-based standard and basic operating standards. Written operating instructions and training must be provided for the handlers.

Decontamination supplies. Employers must provide 1 gallon of water for each worker and 3 gallons for each handler and early entry worker for routine washing and decontamination. The water must be measured from the beginning of the work period. Workers and handlers must be trained to use any nearest clean water source in case of an emergency.

The requirement to provide enough water for emergency eye flushing for handlers has been expanded to specify amounts. Employers must provide pesticide handlers with a system capable of delivering 0.4 gallons per minute for 15 minutes or 6 gallons of water able to flow gently for about 15 minute if handlers use products requiring eye protection or use a pressurized closed system.

2018 Compliance Deadline

The other components that must be implemented by January 1, 2018, pertain to application suspensions, the display of pesticide safety information, and training.

Application suspensions. Pesticide applicators must suspend applications if a worker or anyone else, other than trained and equipped handlers, is in the AEZ.

Pesticide safety information. Pesticide safety information must be displayed at a central location and at sites where decontamination supplies are located if the decontamination supplies are at a permanent site or at a site with 11 or more workers or handlers.

Information can be displayed in any format—posters will no longer be required. However, the content of the pesticide safety information has been expanded to include instructions to seek medical attention as soon as possible in certain circumstances and the contact information of the pesticide regulatory authority.

Training. Instead of every 5 years, workers and handlers must be trained annually. In addition, the amended WPS eliminates the 5-day grace period for training for agricultural workers. Workers must be trained before they work in an area where a pesticide has been used or where a restricted-entry interval (REI) has been in effect in the past 30 days.

The training content is significantly expanded for both agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. Final worker training topics expanded from 11 basic topics to 23 items. Handler training expanded from 13 items to 36 items.

Also, under the amended WPS, employers must keep training records for workers and handlers for 2 years. They must also provide a copy of the training record to workers and handlers upon request.

For training information and to follow developments about pesticide worker protection requirements, check out Enviro.BLR.com®.