Changes to the EPA's Worker Protection Standard (WPS) rule officially went into effect January 2, 2017, but some organizations, including Farm Bureau, asked for a delay in implementation until next year. So far, there's been no delay granted by EPA, and producers affected by it are expected to be in compliance this crop season.
The pesticide safety, application and hazard information requirements apply only to agricultural employers. The WPS applies whenever a pesticide is used in the production of agricultural plants that have an “Agricultural Use Requirements” section on the product label. The rule protects "workers" (those employed to perform work activities related to the production of agricultural plants) and "pesticide handlers" (people employed to mix, load or apply pesticides for use on agricultural establishments in the production of agricultural plants).
The WPS is a federal regulation issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and enforced in Iowa by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, according to information on Iowa State University's WPS training webpage. Implementation of the revised rules are staggered over 3 years: 2016, 2017, and 2018. Compliance with most of the revised rule requirements (40 CFR Part 170, subparts D, E, F and G) was effective beginning January 2, 2017. Changes affected training, personal protective equipment, hazard communication, notification of treated areas, minimum ages, and entry restrictions. Compliance is required with all of the revised WPS requirements are scheduled for January 2, 2018.
Changes Impact Retailers; Fruit, Vegetable, Seed Corn Producers
Officials say the changes mostly impact retailers and fruit, vegetable and seed corn producers more in Iowa, rather than traditional family corn and soybean farmers. Significant changes include a required use of a respirator if the label says one is needed. It no longer matters whether or not there is exposure to the product or spray (as in a closed cab system before, OSHA requirements would allow one to not use a respirator). Also, employers must provide a respirator, "fit" testing and a medical evaluation for handlers that may be required by a product label to use a respirator. Employers are also required to keep a record of their training and evaluation.
Last year, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) sought to delay the rule until January 2018 to give farmers, employers and retailers adequate time to prepare for compliance with the rule. The groups also said the EPA did not meet the law’s requirements when it failed to provide Congressional agriculture committees a final copy of the regulation. The EPA later denied this joint petition.
However, NASDA then re-petitioned EPA after the change in administrations. NASDA members agreed there is still an identifiable need to undertake additional outreach, education, and compliance assistance activities to ensure both the state lead agencies and the regulated community understand the entirety of the final regulation and how to comply with these rule changes. The new regulations require significant additional staff time to provide sufficient outreach to workers, handlers, applicators, agricultural employers, trainers and other stakeholders, NASDA says. NASDA members also noted the enhanced compliance and record keeping requirements require a robust delivery and understanding of educational resources and training materials to assist states and the regulated community in understanding, complying with enforcing the new requirements.
The NASDA request for a delay until 2018 is still pending. While there have been rumors of a delay being granted, nothing has been confirmed. While many states, including Iowa, are reporting that they are coping with the new training and recordkeeping requirements, it may still catch some farmers, workers or retailers off-guard.
Revised Training Requirements
According to ISU, beginning January 2, 2017, all workers and handlers are required to be trained on a yearly-basis. Before any worker or handler enters a pesticide-treated area on an agricultural establishment for any length of time, they need to receive the pesticide safety training (no grace period).
Under the revised WPS there will be no grandfathering of training that was acquired in 2016 or before.
- If a worker or handler was trained in 2016, they will need to receive WPS training within 1 year of the 2016 training. This training will not need to include the 2018 training content. For example, a worker trained on April 14, 2016 will need to be retrained prior to April 14, 2017.
- If a worker or handler was not trained in 2016, they would have to be trained before they do any worker or handler tasks.
To conduct safety training, you must be a certified applicator of restricted use pesticides, have completed a Train-the-Trainer program approved by EPA, or be an IDALS designated trainer. (NOTE: After January 2, 2017, persons who have only been trained as WPS pesticide handlers will no longer be qualified to train workers.)
Yearly training records for each handler and each worker must now be kept for 2 years. If a worker or handler requests those training records, you must provide it to them upon request.
For more detailed information about the changes, refer to the training resource links below, or contact Betsy Buffington, ISU Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program Specialist, (515) 294-7293, firstname.lastname@example.org. For complete details of the changes, see the following training resources.
Worker Protection Standard Training Resources for Farmers
- EPA Chart of Rule Changes
- IDALS WPS Website
- ISU Extension 2017 Training Requirements and Resources
- Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC) Website
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