New and stiffer Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) training requirements for farm workers using chemicals, specifically pesticides in an agricultural setting, are set to take effect beginning in January of 2017.
As it stands now, and as it has been in the past, workers who handle pesticides on the farm must receive specialized training every five years to conform to EPA regulations. But effective Jan 2, 2017, that and many other rules change, and EPA says it is critical that everyone working in agriculture and handling pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals must conform to the new regulations.
A number of changes are coming. They include:
- Annual mandatory training to inform farm workers on the required protections afforded to them.
- Expanded training includes instructions on reducing take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing, and other safety topics.
- First-time ever minimum age requirement: Children under 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides.
- 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.
- New no-entry application-exclusion zones up to 100 feet surrounding pesticide application equipment will protect workers and others from exposure to pesticide over-spray.
- Requirement to provide more than one way for farm workers and their representatives to gain access to pesticide application information and safety data sheets – centrally-posted, or by requesting records.
- Mandatory record-keeping to improve states’ ability to follow up on pesticide violations and enforce compliance. Records of application-specific pesticide information, as well as farm worker training, must be kept for two years.
- Anti-retaliation provisions are comparable to Department of Labor’s (DOL).
- Changes in personal protective equipment will be consistent with DOL’s standards for ensuring respirators are effective, including fit test, medical evaluation and training.
- Specific amounts of water to be used for routine washing, emergency eye flushing and other decontamination, including eye wash systems for handlers at pesticide mixing/loading sites.
- Continue the exemption for farm owners and their immediate families with an expanded definition of immediate family.
It is important to note that these changes are mandatory, and failure to comply could result in serious penalties, not the least of which could be prohibition from use of such pesticides and chemicals in your farm operation, and stiff fines in cases where violations are noted. Also, managers bear the civil responsibility for the danger and accidents involving workers or the general public as a result of over-drift or other accidental exposure incidents. Compliance to the new requirements is not an option—it is a mandate.
All across Texas, the AgriLife Extension Service offers conformance training through county agent offices and operations on a regional basis. On Nov. 15, the first of two autumn events to help farmers and ranchers conform to the new standards took place at the San Patricio County Fairgrounds Civic Center.
San Patricio County Agriculture Extension Agent Bobby McCool said ag employers whose pesticide workers and handlers have not received worker protection standard (WPS) training within the past 12 months will be out of compliance with the new WPS regulations, and he encouraged those who have not met the new requirements and did not attend this month's session should make plans for the last available training session this year, again scheduled at the San Patricio Fairgrounds Civic Center on Thursday, Dec. 15.
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Texas A&M AgriLife San Patricio County and San Patricio County Farm Bureau are offering this training for pesticide workers and handlers. McCool encourages ag employers to contact the Extension office to RSVP for the last class as soon as possible. He said a Spanish version of this training is available. RSVP to the Extension Office by calling (361) 364-6234 as soon as possible to reserve a place.
Similar training opportunities exist across Texas and in other states. Ag employers are encouraged to contact their county agriculture agents to discover opportunities in their area.