EPA proposes new worker protection standards for pesticide use

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2014 - EPA today proposed revisions to its Worker Protection Standard for farm workers who regularly deal with pesticides. The revised rules are meant to “protect the nation's two million farm workers and their families from pesticide exposure,” the agency said in a release.

Together we can feed the Bees"

“EPA's revised worker protection standard [will give farmworkers] similar protections to those enjoyed by workers in other jobs,” Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said on a teleconference with reporters. “The current rule is not working the way it should.”

Amy Liebman, director of the Migrant Clinicians Networks, congratulated EPA on its revisions. “For too long, farm workers have been treated as second class,” she told reporters. The rules will “afford them stronger safeguards to protect their health…[and] ensure viability of the workforce,” she said.  “Farmer workers are critical to our economy.”  

The protection standards for agricultural workers have not been significantly updated since 1992.

The changes proposed in EPA's revision would, among other points:

  • Increase worker training regarding the safe usage of pesticides, including how to prevent and effectively treat pesticide exposure;
  • Increase training and signage to inform farm workers about the protections they are afforded under the law;
  • Require employers to maintain pesticide application-specific information, labeling and safety data and make that information available to workers, handlers, or their authorized representatives;
  • Require pesticide handlers and early-entry workers to be 16 years old. However, EPA has proposed an exemption for farm owners' immediate families.

EPA says the changes would cost industry between $67 million and $87 million to implement and maintain.

The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register within ten days. After that, stakeholders will have 90 days to comment on the revisions.

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