Revised Worker Protection Standard
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the 2015 Revised Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides (WPS), which strengthens protections for agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. Its main intent is to avoid pesticide exposure and reduce the potential for pesticide-related illnesses and incidents. Agricultural employers and owners must be in compliance with the majority of the new rules effective January 2, 2017. (A few parts will take effect in January 2018.)
The following resources introduce the revised Standard, provide information on how to comply, and supply materials you can use to achieve compliance. A full list of resources is in the Quick Links section below.
Does the WPS Apply to You?
The WPS may apply to you if you use WPS-labeled pesticide products on an agricultural establishment for agricultural production and you are
- an owner or person responsible for the management of an agricultural establishment that employs workers or handlers;
- the owner of a family-owned agricultural establishment where you and/or your immediate family members are the only people who work on the establishment;
- the owner or a person responsible for the management of a commercial (for-hire) pesticide handling establishment;
- a pesticide handler; or
- a crop advisor.
How to Comply
If you are in any of the roles above, you should refer to How to Comply with the 2015 Revised Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides: What Owners and Employers Need to Know in order to learn more about your responsibilities under the revised Standard. The manual is divided into chapters by the categories above, so you only need to read the parts that apply to your situation. Hard copies of the manual are available from MSU Extension publication M2166.
The how-to comply (HTC) manual covers new WPS concepts such as agricultural exclusion zones; new definitions, including enclosed space and immediate family; and major changes regarding pesticide safety information and training, record keeping, respirators, minimum age requirements, notification of applications, access to application and pesticide hazard information, decontamination supplies, and emergency assistance.
Agricultural owners and their immediate family members are afforded a number of exemptions under the revised Standard, though some of the WPS requirements must still be met. If ANY employees are not immediate family, they must be afforded ALL of the protections of the WPS. Crop advisors qualify for certain exceptions. Refer to the chapters and appendixes regarding these topics in the HTC manual.
Be aware that the cost of noncompliance is high. The State of Mississippi may penalize up to $5,000 per violation, however agricultural owners or commercial operators may be at considerably greater risk of liability from accidental exposure of workers or handlers in the event that they have not been adequately trained. Currently, a federal civil penalty of up to $2,750 per violation may be assessed against private applicators (owners/operators of agricultural establishments) and other persons, and up to $18,750 per violation against commercial applicators (owners/operators of pesticide handler establishments) and other persons. An annotated version of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce WPS Inspection Report provides insight into the inspection process and lists the section in the HTC manual that covers each item on the checklist.
Stay in compliance by posting the required pesticide safety information at a central location at your establishment. Spanish and English versions of updated EPA-approved pesticide safety information posters are in the Quick Links below. Be sure to fill in your site-specific information on the posters.
For a brief overview of the revised Standard, see the quick reference guide from the HTC manual (also available in Spanish). Worker Protection Standard Frequently Asked Questions compiled by EPA clarifies some of the topics in the revised Standard. A PowerPoint presentation for Mississippi audiences based on the HTC manual highlights the changes in the revised Standard.
Worker and Handler Pesticide Safety Training
The revised WPS requires annual pesticide safety training for workers and handlers. Employees must be trained BEFORE performing any worker or handler duties, and there is no grace period in the new rules. All training materials must be EPA approved. Refer to the how-to-comply manual above for full details on worker and handler training, including topics to be covered, qualifications for trainers, and record-keeping requirements.
In order to determine which employees need what kind of training, if any, read Is WPS training needed? What employers need to know, which covers various scenarios and activities undertaken by agricultural workers and handlers. Note that if employees have been trained as workers or handlers in the past 12 months (sometime in 2016) using the 1992 WPS rules, then they are not due for retraining until that 12-month period ends. Starting January 2, 2018, all workers and handlers must be trained using materials that conform to the 2015 revised WPS.
WPS trainers must meet certain qualifications in order to train workers or handlers, as discussed in the How to Comply manual. Persons who are currently certified as applicators of restricted use pesticides (RUPs), either as commercial or private applicators, are qualified to train both workers and handlers. Note that WPS-trained handlers can no longer train workers unless they meet one of the other qualifications (including certified pesticide applicator status).
All training must be conducted in a relatively disturbance-free area, and the trainer must be present at all times to answer questions. In addition to the training resources below, the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC) and EPA have released National Worker Protection Standard: A Manual for Trainers of Agricultural Workers and Pesticide Handlers, which covers the mandatory topics and offers training scenarios and tips for helping trainees better understand the materials presented.
PERC has produced and gathered a number of EPA-approved worker and handler training resources on its website. The following training materials conform to the 2015 revised Standard and can be used in 2017 but MUST be used starting in January 2018.
- WPS PowerPoint for Workers
- WPS PowerPoint for Handlers
- WPS Video for Workers (English)
- WPS Video for Workers (Spanish)
- WPS Video for Forestry Workers (English)
- WPS Video for Forestry Workers (Spanish)
- Worker Protection Standard (WPS) Respiratory Protection Guide - PDF
As of January 2017, the PowerPoint for handlers is the only EPA-approved handler resource that has been posted by PERC. The other option is to work from the trainers’ manual. An alternative to offering annual handler training (and doing the accompanying record keeping) is to have all of the handlers on your establishment trained as private pesticide applicators. Going this route costs $20/handler for a 5-year certification. Note that handlers will still need to be trained on establishment-specific information such as the location of centrally posted safety and hazard information and decontamination supplies.
Another useful resource to share with workers and handlers describes how to safely and effectively launder pesticide-contaminated work clothes to avoid exposing their families to pesticide residue.
Respirator Fit Testing and Medical Evaluation
With the January 2017 enforcement of the 2015 revised WPS, employers and owners of agricultural establishments must ensure that every employee using a WPS-labeled pesticide that requires the use of a respirator (as stated on the pesticide labeling) is medically cleared to wear a respirator AND fit tested annually for each type of respirator required. In addition, employers must provide annual respirator training for these handlers. Employers are responsible for the cost of the medical clearance (including any related testing or office visits) and the respirator fit testing.
Under the revised standard, employers must keep records of the annual fit testing and respirator training for at least 2 years. The written medical clearance must be kept for at least 2 years or until another medical clearance is conducted. Nobody who needs to wear a respirator, including agricultural owners and their immediate family members, is exempt from the respirator requirements of the revised Standard. See the How to Comply manual for full details about the respirator and medical evaluation rules.
Fit testing is not widely available in Mississippi, but some vendors offer the service in their clinics or on site. One vendor can fly into local airstrips to conduct fit testing for groups of medically cleared individuals (contact our office for further information). Some providers offer medical clearances, either online or in person. See Providers of Medical Clearance and Respirator Fit Testing in Mississippi to explore your options in meeting the respirator requirements.
Additional resources that may be helpful are the WPS Respiratory Protection Guide: Requirements for Employers of Pesticide Handlers; medical evaluation (‘OSHA long form’) in English and Spanish and a PowerPoint presentation on respirator fit testing and medical clearance.
Contact the Pesticide Safety Education Program at 662-325-5829 or 662-325-0795 if you have questions about the 2015 Revised Worker Protection Standard.
How to Comply
How to Comply with the 2015 Revised Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides: What Owners and Employers Need to Know (PERC/EPA; available from MSU-ES as M2166)
Quick Reference Guide (PERC/EPA; 8.5 X 11) (English)
Quick Reference Guide (PERC/EPA; 8.5x11) (Spanish)
Worker Protection Standard Frequently Asked Questions (EPA)
WPS How to Comply Training (PowerPoint, MSU-ES)
Mississippi Department of Agriculture & Commerce Worker Protection Standard Inspection Report (Annotated to indicate section of the How-to-Comply manual that covers each item in the checklist)
WPS Protect Yourself from Pesticides poster (PERC: 11 x 17) (English/Spanish)
WPS Protect Yourself from Pesticides poster (PERC: 11 x 17) (English)
WPS Protect Yourself from Pesticides poster (PERC: 11 x 17) (Spanish)
Worker and Handler Pesticide Safety Training
Is WPS Training Needed? What Employers Need to Know (PERC)
National Worker Protection Standard: A Manual for Trainers of Agricultural Workers and Pesticide Handlers (EPA 730-B-16-001)
Presentations for Workers (PowerPoint; EPA Worker PST 00017)
Presentations for Handlers (PowerPoint; EPA Handler PST 00018)
WPS Video for Workers (English; EPA Worker PST 00001)
WPS Video for Workers (Spanish; EPA Trabajador PST 00001)
WPS Video for Forestry Workers (English; EPA Worker PST 00003)
WPS Video for Forestry Workers (Spanish; EPA Trabajador PST 00003)
Worker Protection Standard Training Record for Workers
Worker Protection Standard Training Record for Handlers
Laundering Pesticide-contaminated Work Clothes (North Dakota State University)
Respirator Fit Testing and Medical Evaluation
Providers of Medical Clearance and Respirator Fit Testing in Mississippi (MSU-ES, P3023)
WPS Respiratory Protection Guide: Requirements for Employers of Pesticide Handlers (PERC)
Medical Evaluation – English (‘OSHA long form’)
Medical Evaluation – Spanish (‘OSHA long form’)
Respirator Fit Testing and Medical Evaluation (PowerPoint, Merit Health Wesley/MSU-ES)
YAZOO CITY, Miss. -- Mississippi farmers can safely remove leftover pesticides from their property during a free disposal event on Dec. 16 in Yazoo City.
Insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and other pesticide products can be dropped off at the former Tal Port building located at 2003 Gordon Avenue between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
No household waste, tires, rinsates, empty containers or products in bulk containers will be accepted.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- How to feed the world’s growing population is a continuing challenge for agricultural researchers and producers, and one expert who spoke Thursday at Mississippi State University said pesticides are essential for meeting that challenge.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Producers accumulate a variety of unused materials on the farm over time, and some of them require special handling for disposal.
A pesticide disposal program has been making clean-up on the farm easier since 1994 by providing a way to get rid of waste pesticides and potentially hazardous materials.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The Mississippi State University Extension Service will hold a waste pesticide collection day July 31 in Tunica County for farmers and pesticide applicators in northwest Mississippi.
The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Tunica Gin on Highway 61, one mile south of Tunica. There is no fee to participate.
Waste pesticides are leftover, cancelled, suspended or unusable products. Examples include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and plant growth regulators. Empty pesticide containers will not be accepted.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Environmentally conscious producers in Panola County got more than 13 tons of waste pesticide off their farms during a one-day collection in March.
The Mississippi State University Extension Service partnered with the state Department of Agriculture and Commerce to offer the Agricultural Pesticide Disposal Program to area producers March 22 in Batesville. A grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality covered the cost of disposal.