Friday, December 9, 2016

Many changes in works for Worker Protection Standard

Brent Barnes
Assistant Director, Pesticide Management Division

Farmworkers can be exposed to specific hazards in their workplace, such as preventable pesticide exposure. 
WSDA and L&I train a
class of farm workers. 

To further protect the health of workers, their families and others in the industry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made changes to Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, a set of federal requirements aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide exposure and injury. 

Most changes take effect on Jan. 2, 2017, while some are delayed until January 2018. It’s important that all farm operators and pesticide applicators comply with the new regulations because WSDA will be enforcing them. 

Furthermore, WSDA is coordinating with the state Department of Labor & Industries to update state rules to align with the new federal regulations. While each agencies’ rulemaking process will be separate, ultimately, state rules will be consistent. Our agency began this process by filing proposed new rule language this week and announcing public hearings scheduled for January (watch this page for details)

Washington state already had ag worker standards on the books that, in some areas, have been more protective than federal requirements. Examples of where the fed’s rules have now caught up to Washington include those around medical evaluation, training and respirator fit testing. 

However, some of the new federal standards will be stricter. Those who are affected – growers and pesticide handlers – will need to be ready to comply with these requirements. 

Here are a few examples of what’s new:

  • Training: Workers and handlers must be trained every year, instead of every five years as previously required. Also, a record of that training must be kept for two years. 
  • Information and Posting: The type of information and location for displaying it have been expanded and specified. For example, Safety Data Sheets must be posted along with application and safety info in a spot that’s easily seen by workers and handlers. 
  • Application Exclusion Zone: Agricultural employers must keep all people, except properly trained and equipped pesticide handlers, out of these application zones. 

The changes to the Worker Protection Standard cover a lot of areas. It’s critical that agricultural employers learn and understand what’s being required to comply and protect workers and their communities. 

A good place to start is EPA’s web page, Revision to the Worker Protection Standard where you’ll find an overview and links to a number of helpful resources. 

And WSDA’s Pesticide Management Compliance Program is also here to help. We’ll focus on outreach, resources and technical assistance as these changes take effect. Stay tuned for more information. And in the meantime, if you have questions, contact us at 360-902-2040 or email