In 2005, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised the "Quick Reference Guide" for the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) relating to agricultural pesticides. The WPS is a federal regulation implemented to reduce the risk of pesticide-related illnesses and injury among employees on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses.
The WPS aims to reduce occupational exposure of agricultural employees to agricultural pesticides by requiring employers to do the following:
The employer must display in a central location information about pesticide safety, emergency procedures, and recent pesticide applications. The necessary information includes EPA WPS safety posters (an example appears above), contact information for the nearest medical facility, and facts about each pesticide application. The employer must also inform workers of the location of this information and provide easy access for workers to obtain the information. All information should be legible and current.
Workers and pesticide handlers should receive pesticide safety training before they begin work and a minimum of every five years after that. Training should be conducted by a certified applicator and can include both written and audiovisual material. To train employees, employers should use the EPA WPS training materials for handlers or workers (depending on the employees).
Employers must provide and maintain personal protective equipment (PPE) for handlers and early-entry workers on the basis of the requirements on pesticide labels. PPE should be clean and in good condition, inspected each day of use, and repaired or replaced as needed. Workers must wear PPE properly and for only the job intended, and they should change clothing in a pesticide-free area. Clothing and PPE worn during a pesticide application should be washed separately from other clothing and should be dried completely before it is used again or placed in storage. If the PPE is reusable, workers should follow the manufacturer's recommendations when cleaning PPE between each use.
When using a respirator, workers should replace dust or mist filters per the recommendations of the manufacturer or when breathing becomes difficult, the filter is damaged or torn, or at the end of the work day. Vapor-removing cartridges or canisters should be replaced if the wearer notices an odor or taste or experiences irritation, per the recommendations on the respirator or pesticide label, or at the end of the work day. To provide the best protection, respirators must fit correctly.
Workers and employers should follow federal, state, and local disposal laws regarding the disposal of any coveralls or other absorbent material heavily contaminated with undiluted pesticide carrying a DANGER or WARNING label.
Employers must provide prompt transportation to an appropriate medical facility for any worker or handler who has been injured or poisoned by pesticides so that the worker can obtain treatment. An employer should promptly provide the worker and medical personnel with pesticide product information including the product name, EPA registration number, list of active ingredients, description of how the product was used, and details about the worker’s exposure to the pesticide.
A restricted-entry interval (REI) is the established time period after a pesticide application during which entry into a field is restricted. An REI exists for all pesticides used in production agriculture. The type of notification that an REI requires (oral, written, posted) is typically indicated on the pesticide label. If the label does not require a specific type of notification, employers should warn workers verbally or post warnings at the treated area. Notification should be given for all pesticide applications, including those within a greenhouse. The standard WPS warning sign is 14 in. by 16 in. Any warning sign should remain in place prior to the application and during the REI. Warning signs should be removed before workers enter the area or within three days of the end of the REI.
Prior to a pesticide application, a commercial handler must provide the operator of an agricultural operation with the following details:
Employers must provide an accessible decontamination area within a quarter mile of all workers and handlers. The decontamination area should be equipped with adequate water, soap, and single-use towels for workers and handlers to wash pesticide residue from their eyes and hands or to perform whole-body washing. The water must be safe and cool enough for both washing and drinking. Tank-stored water used for mixing pesticides cannot be the water source for the decontamination area unless the tank is equipped with valves that prevent back-siphoning, check valves, or other mechanisms (such as air gaps) that prevent pesticides from moving into the tank.
The same supplies should be available at each mixing and loading site as well as at the location where handlers remove their PPE after completing a task. Handlers should have access to at least one pint of water for eye flushing when they are working with a pesticide that requires eye protection. When choosing the location of the decontamination area for workers, employers should not select an area where a pesticide application is in progress or an area that is under an REI. Decontamination supplies for handlers can be located in enclosed containers if the area is being treated.
For more information about the WPS, access the following EPA resources:
Worker protection standard. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66267/worker-protection-standard.
Basic Principles of the Worker Protection Standard. (2012) United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/safety/workers/principl.htm.
How to Comply with the Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides: What Employers Need to Know. (2006) United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/epa-735-b-05-002.pdf.
Personal Protective Equipment. (2012) United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/safety/workers/equip.htm.
Quick Reference Guide: 2005 Update. (2005) United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/quickreferenceguide.pdf.
Workers Protection Standard. (2011) National Pesticide Information Center. Retrieved from http://npic.orst.edu/reg/wps.html.
Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides. (2012) United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/twor.html#htc.
Worker Safety and Training. (2012) United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/worker.htm