Worker Protection Standard Update

The 2015 EPA Worker Protection Standard (WPS) revision is now in full effect with the only exception being the requirement for new training materials.
Worker Protection Standard Update - News


Photo: Penn State Pesticide Education

EPA has delayed the requirement for the revised training materials “for the time being.” However, Pennsylvania growers can now get free copies of the new EPA approved materials by contacting Jim Harvey at or calling him at 814-863-8214. Both worker handbooks, training DVDs, and revised posters are available.

According to the revision, you must train your workers and handlers every year, and there is no longer a grace period for training. All workers must be trained before they begin work in an area where a pesticide has been used, or a restricted-entry interval has been in effect over the past 30 days. After the training, workers should sign a sheet acknowledging that they have been trained and the employer must keep the sign-off sheet for at least two years. There was an update in the revision that now requires handlers and early-entry workers to be at least 18 years old. However, this does not apply to the owner’s immediate family, which includes spouse, parents, stepparents, foster parents, children, stepchildren, foster children, brothers, sisters, in-laws, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and first cousins.

One new requirement of the WPS revision is related to respirators. If the chemical label requires the use of a respirator, then a medical evaluation, fit test, and training are required. The requirement is a label requirement and owners, and their immediate family members are NOT exempt. Respirator use adds physical stress to the pesticide handler because it takes effort above what is usual to inhale and exhale through the respirator filters.

A medical evaluation can be done online or by a physician or licensed health care professional who is, making sure the handler can accept this additional stress and is medically able to use the respirator. Both options require a fee and are offered by various providers, including 3M. The 3M website claims that 98% of those requiring the medical evaluation are certifiable through the online option. For most handlers, the medical evaluation is a one-time requirement, but a few growers may need to retake the medical evaluation every year or two due to existing medical conditions. Because the medical evaluation is also directed toward OSHA users, the WPS applicants can ignore the portion about the written respirator program.

Following the medical exam, the fit of the respirator is tested. This fit testing is done with the handler using the respirator that will be used on the job. Because different people have different facial structures, not all respirators will work with every person. The use of a loose fitting Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) will exempt a handler from the annual respirator fit test requirement and will overcome problems passing the fit test with a beard.

The Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) is a new requirement that prohibits handlers from applying pesticides when anyone is within a 25 foot (for low drift applications) of the application equipment as it dispenses the product or 100 feet of a high drift application. This exclusion is for any human even if they are off the farm property but still within that 25 or 100-foot “halo.”

Additional WPS revisions include pesticide safety information, personal protective equipment, decontamination supplies and more. If you would like more information about the WPS revision or would like to meet with a WPS Program staff person at your operation, please contact Jim Harvey at or 814-863-8214.