By Rhonda Brooks and Susan Skiles Luke
They’re in effect now, despite dispute over privacy
Farmers and many of the retailers who work with them might want to listen up: A number of changes to the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015, have just gone into effect.
This comes after a last-minute attempt by two farm groups to delay implementation of the changes over privacy concerns.
Most of the regulations are common-sense based, and many retailers adhered to them long before now, notes Nancy Fitz of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. However, she says that isn’t necessarily the case with farmers, especially regarding changes in the use of personal protective equipment. That equipment must now be consistent with federal standards and, depending on the pesticide label, can include the use of respirators. (Employers, including farmers, are responsible for supplying workers with respirators.)
In addition, employers must provide employees who mix, load and apply products with medical evaluations, a respirator-fit test and training for proper respirator use. Here’s a recap of other major revisions now in effect:
- Children under 18 are no longer allowed to handle pesticides.
- Annual training must be provided to farmworkers about their rights and responsibilities. This replaces training once every five years.
- Expanded training is required to reduce the risk of take-home pesticide exposure on applicators’ clothing and protective equipment.
- Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs is required for the most hazardous pesticides.
- Applications must be suspended if people come within 100' of some application equipment, such as air-blast sprayers.
- Mandatory record keeping is in place to improve states’ ability to enforce the rules.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture petitioned EPA to push back by a year the date the new rules take effect, according to Bloomberg BNA. The groups dispute a rule they say would require farmers to hand over information on crop inputs to third parties (“designated representatives”) at a worker’s request, without limiting the purposes of the disclosure or who those representatives can be.
But Bloomberg reported EPA confirmed the new rules would take effect as planned.
“The ‘designated representative’ provision exceeds the scope of the WPS rule by depriving farmers of reasonable expectation of privacy for confidential business information,” Bloomberg quoted the petition saying. “Moreover, it subjects farmers to potential harassment and public
criticisms for lawful use of EPA-approved pesticides.”
Congress never got to review the final version of the bill, which contained the disputed provision, Bloomberg reported.