Highlights of the New Worker Protection Standard

Posted: July 28, 2016

In late 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency issued the long awaited revision to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS). Although it is now technically active it will not be enforced until 2017 but the original WPS will still be enforced until the end of 2016. Please keep in mind that the WPS covers both restricted use AND general use pesticides. This article will deal with the highlights to the revision but also some areas of the current WPS that need emphasized.

Organic Growers—Don’t ignore this regulation!

Although organic growers use different products there is a very good chance that you are using pest control products that make you subject to the WPS. To know if your products are subject to the WPS look at the product label and if you see an EPA registration number on the label that product is probably under the WPS. To be absolutely sure look for the “Agriculture Use Statement” on the label and if you find that and are using that product in production Ag you are under the WPS and can be inspected.

Just Family?

There is an “immediate family” exemption to the WPS that exempts family members from MOST of the WPS protections. However family members must still use label required PPE (personal protection equipment) and still must obey the REIs (Restricted Entry Intervals) and the other label requirements.

So who falls under the family exemption?

The regulation revision has expanded the family exemption to now include first cousins, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, grandchildren, grandparents and in-laws. The original exemptions are still valid and they include children, step children, foster children, parents, step parents, foster parents, siblings and spouses and of course the owner. In spite of this exemption why not give your family the benefit of these WPS protections?

Training Changes

This is the area with the most changes. Under the revision growers subject to the WPS must now train their employees every year and they must be trained on Day 1 before they do any work in the crop areas if it has been less than 30 days since the last restricted entry interval expired. Make sure the employees sign off on their training and keep those on file. If the employee requests a copy of the sign off employers are now responsible to give them one copy.

Training materials will be changing but any EPA approved WPS training materials (including the Penn State University WPS training DVDs) will be good until January of 2018. New training materials should start showing up in 2017. Penn State will be redoing their DVDs to comply with the changes but it will take time.

Trainers in Pennsylvania still must have a current Pennsylvania Pesticide Applicator certification to train employees and must be present at the training. Trainers cannot just give employees a copy of the handbook or DVD and tell them to take it home tonight and look at it. If you are using general use pesticides and don’t have a pesticide certification, find a grower friend to do your training for you.

Central Location

The big change here is the need to keep SDS sheets (Safety Data Sheets). Many of you are unfamiliar with SDS sheets but they are the old MSDS sheets in a standardized format. You will need to “display” them at the central location for 30 days following their use. Keeping them in a loose leaf notebook at the central location is acceptable. You need to keep these SDS sheets for two years after they were last used. You can get the SDS sheets from your pesticide supplier or download them off the Internet.

Of course you will still need to keep pesticide application information for 30 days at the central location and the pesticide safety information (poster). The central location must be easily accessible to your employees.

Decontamination Supplies

Pesticide handlers still need three gallons of water, soap and paper towels at the mix and load site, within a quarter mile of the application area and where PPE is taken off. If they are working with a product requiring eye protection they must have “immediate “access to at least a pint of eye wash or fresh water. Handlers need an eye wash system at the mix and load site capable of delivering .4 gallons of water for 15 minutes or 6 gallons of water able to flow gently for 15 minutes. This does Not have to be a fancy system, it can be a hose attached to a faucet. A change of clothes for handlers is also required.

Although handlers and workers need to have access to the required decontamination supplies they can in emergency situations make use of natural waters that are close by in addition to the required decontamination supplies. Workers need to have access to at least a gallon of wash water, soap and paper towels within a quarter of a mile of the crop area that they are working in.

Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ)

This is new to the WPS and will be implemented over two years. Starting in 2017 the AEZ takes effect on the grower’s property. Then in 2018 the AEZ will cover areas outside of the grower’s property that fall within the “bubble”. This may include roads and your neighbor’s property. Keep in mind that the “bubble” moves with the application equipment as the application equipment moves.

The AEZ is an exclusion zone that surrounds the application equipment in a 360 degree radius. High drift applications such as air blast sprayers, aerial applications, fumigants, mist and fogging will need a 100 foot “bubble” where everyone is excluded except for handlers that have the proper PPE and training to work inside that bubble. Low drift applications will need a 25 foot bubble. If someone is in that AEZ the handler must suspend application in that area until they leave that area.

pesticide warning in the orchard

Respirator Fit Tests

The other big change is the Respirator Fit tests for handlers that work with products requiring a respirator. Starting in 2017 handlers MUST get an annual Fit test which involves first a medical evaluation. There are medical contractors that offer this but your local hospital probably can do it in their occupational health department. Once the medical evaluation is passed then the actual Fit tests can be done. The employee can conduct the Fit Test using kits from safety retailers. You can go to a commercial contractor that offers this or you might be able to get someone at your local fire company to do it for a small donation.

Resources for the WPS

Although articles such as this and the winter meeting season can go a long way in explaining the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the best way to get a good understanding of the WPS is to get an individualized farm visit from a WPS specialist at Penn State University. If you want a specialist to meet with you at your farm to go over your compliance efforts you can call Jim Harvey at 814-863-8214 at the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health or email Jim at to schedule a visit. The visits are free and typically take an hour but can go longer if necessary.

Penn State Farm Worker Protection Safety Program

Contact Information

  • Educl Prgm Spec
Phone: 814-863-8214