For the first time in 20 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new worker protection standards for the application of pesticides. These new rules would apply on farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses, and would cover workers who handle and apply pesticides, as well as those who handle treated products.
“The EPA and the administration are attempting to use the rulemaking process, rather than legislation, so they have an easier path to setting new standards,” OAN executive director Jeff Stone said. “That’s very concerning to us. As far as the specific provisions of these rules, we’re still analyzing them, and our input will be forthcoming.”
According to the EPA, the proposed changes include the following (also listed in this PDF fact sheet):
- Increased frequency of mandatory trainings (from once every five years to annually) to inform farm workers about the protections they are afforded under the law, including restrictions on entering pesticide-treated fields and surrounding areas, decontamination supplies, access to information and use of personal protective equipment. Expanded trainings will include instructions to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing and other safety topics.
- Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides; the signs prohibit entry into pesticide-treated fields until residues decline to a safe level.
- First time-ever minimum age requirement: Children under 16 will be prohibited from handling pesticides, with an exemption for family farms.
- No-entry buffer areas surrounding pesticide-treated fields will protect workers and others from exposure from pesticide overspray and fumes.
- Measures to improve the states’ ability to enforce compliance including requiring employers to keep records of application-specific pesticide information as well as farmworker training and early-entry notification for two years.
- Personal Protection Equipment (respirator use) must be consistent with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards for ensuring respirators are providing protection, including fit test, medical evaluation, and training.
- Make available to farm workers or their advocates (including medical personnel) information specific to the pesticide application, including the pesticide label and Safety Data Sheets.
- Additional changes make the rule more practical and easier to comply with for farmers.
- Continues the exemptions for family farms.
There’s a June 17 deadline for affected parties to submit their comments to the EPA. The OAN, AmericanHort and others plan to provide input in time for the deadline. OAN members are encouraged to review the proposal and share their thoughts with Jeff Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org.