Pesticides can be useful tools for farmers. However, applicators, family members and workers can be harmed due to improper storage and use of pesticides.
For this reason, the EPA has developed the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) for Pesticides (US EPA regulation, 40 CFR Part 170). The WPS applies to all pesticides that are used in the production of agricultural plants on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses. This includes general use pesticides including those allowed in organic production (OMRI-approved), as well as restricted-use pesticides. Also, even if a pesticide license is not required, employees and handlers must still receive education in and comply with the WPS.
The WPS requires the owner or employer to take steps to reduce the risk of pesticide-related illness and injury: 1) if pesticides are used on the farm or 2) workers or pesticide handlers are employed who may be exposed to such pesticides.
You will know a pesticide product is covered by the WPS if you see the following statement in the "Directions for Use" section of the pesticide labeling:
Agricultural Use Requirements
Use this product only in accordance with its labeling and with the Worker Protection Standard, 40 CFR Part 170. This standard contains requirements for the protection of agricultural workers on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses, and handlers of agricultural pesticides. It contains requirements for training, decontamination, notification, and emergency assistance. It also contains specific instructions and exceptions pertaining to the statements on this label about personal protective equipment, notification of workers, and restricted-entry intervals.
The primary WPS resource is the How to Comply manual (https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/pesticide-worker-protection-standard-how-comply-manual), developed by EPA. The manual is available from your State Lead Agency (SLA), pesticide education office of the Cooperative Extension Service, the EPA Region 1 office and EPA's National Agricultural Compliance Assistance Center. Every agricultural producer should have a copy of the EPA How to Comply manual.
Key Elements of the Worker Protection Standard
The following is a brief summary of the major elements of the WPS. Producers should refer to the manual for complete details and explanations of the requirements of the Worker Protection Standard.
Information and Education. To ensure employees will be informed about exposure to pesticides, the WPS requires:
- Annual pesticide safety training for workers and handlers,
- Pesticide safety poster to be displayed for workers and handlers
- Access to labels and material safety data sheets for pesticide handlers and early-entry workers
- Access to specific information in a centrally-located Application List of pesticide treatments on the establishment
Protection. To ensure employees will be protected from exposures to pesticides, the WPS requires employers to:
- Prohibit handlers from applying a pesticide in a way that will expose workers or other persons
- Exclude workers from areas being treated with pesticides
- Exclude workers from areas that remain under a restricted entry interval (REI) with narrow exceptions
- Protect early-entry workers who are doing permitted tasks in treated areas during an REI requirements include special instructions and duties related to correct use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Notify workers about treated areas so they can avoid inadvertent exposures
- Protect handlers during handling tasks. Requirements include monitoring while handling highly toxic pesticides and duties related to correct use of PPE.
Mitigation. To mitigate exposures that employees receive, the WPS requires:
- Decontamination sites that provide handlers and workers an ample supply of water, soap and towels for routine washing and emergency decontamination,
- Emergency assistance that provides transportation to a medical care facility if an agricultural worker or handler may have been poisoned or injured by a pesticide and providing information about the pesticide(s) to which the person may have been exposed.
Agricultural Owner Exemptions. Even if you are the owner of the farm, forest, nursery, or greenhouse and you or members of your family do all the work there, you are a "WPS employer." You must comply with SOME of the WPS requirements, such as adhering to restricted entry intervals, personal protective equipment (PPE) and ALL the specific requirements listed in the pesticide labeling. If you hire commercial handlers, certain information must be given from you (the operator) to the commercial handler employer.
- Specific location and description of any areas that may be treated with a pesticide or be under an REI while handler is there, or that the commercial handlers may be in (or walk within 1/4 mile of),
- Restrictions on entering those areas.
Crop Advisors. The WPS requires employers to provide certain protections to their employees who are working as crop advisors. Examples of crop advisors are crop consultants, scouts, and integrated pest management monitors. An independent or commercial crop advisor is any person working as a crop advisor who is employed (including self-employed) by anyone other than the agricultural establishment on which the work is being done. Certain provisions of the WPS apply to crop advisors depending on when the advisor is on the farm and when the pesticide has been applied.
Commercial Handlers. Employers of commercial handlers must make sure that their customer the operator of the farm, forest, nursery or greenhouse, knows certain information such as: specific location and description of the area treated with the pesticide, time and date pesticide is to be applied, product name, EPA registration number, active ingredient(s), REI for the pesticide, whether the labeling requires treated area posting and oral notification and any other specific requirements on the pesticide labeling concerning protection of workers and other persons during or after application.
For more information on the WPS, contact your Cooperative Extension Pesticide Safety Education Coordinator, SLA or EPA Region 1 office. See also the web site for WPS: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/agricultural-worker-protection-standard-wps