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. Effective January 2018, agricultural employers and owners must comply with the new rules.
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.
The revised Standard provides a number of exemptions for agricultural owners and their immediate family members, but they must still meet some of the WPS requirements. Owners must provide ALL of the protections of the WPS to any employees who are not immediate family members. For detailed information, see the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC) WPS guide to family exemptions. Crop advisors qualify for certain exemptions and 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). 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. Starting January 2, 2018, all workers and handlers must be trained using materials that conform to the 2015 revised WPS. Note that if employees were trained as workers or handlers in the past 12 months, then they are not due for retraining until that 12-month period ends.
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 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.
WPS Video for Agricultural Workers (English; 19 minutes)
WPS Video for Agricultural Workers (Spanish; 22 minutes)
WPS Video for Agricultural Workers and Handlers (English; 38 minutes)
WPS PowerPoint for Agricultural Workers and Handlers (English; 62 slides)
WPS PowerPoint for Agricultural Handlers (Spanish; 136 slides)
WPS Video for Forestry Workers (English; 17 minutes)
WPS Video for Forestry Workers (Spanish; 22 minutes)
Note that if you choose to use the WPS Video for Agricultural Workers and Handlers, workers watch only the first 21 minutes, while handlers must watch all 38 minutes. 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 describes how workers and handlers can safely and effectively launder pesticide-contaminated work clothes to avoid exposing their families to pesticide residue.
Respirator Fit Testing and Medical Evaluation
Under 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) has a written medical clearance to wear a respirator AND is 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. Everyone who needs to wear a respirator, including agricultural owners and their immediate family members, must meet 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 and the medical evaluation (‘OSHA long form’) in English and Spanish.
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)
How to Comply with the 2015 Revised Worker Protection Standard (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)
Is WPS Training Needed? What Employers Need to Know (PERC)
Worker and Handler Pesticide Safety Training
Worker Protection Standard Training Record for Worker (MSU-ES)
Worker Protection Standard Training Record for Handlers (MSU-ES)
WPS Video for Workers (English; EPA Worker PST 00001; 19 minutes)
WPS Video for Workers (Spanish; EPA Worker PST 00001; 22 minutes)
WPS Video for Agricultural Workers and Handlers (English; EPA Workers and Handlers PST 00022; 38 minutes)
WPS Powerpoint for Agricultural Workers and Handlers (English; EPA Workers and Handlers PST 00022; 62 slides)
WPS Powerpoint for Agricultural Handlers (Spanish; EPA Handler PST 00018; 136 slides)
WPS Video for Forestry Workers (English; EPA Worker PST 00003; 17 minutes)
WPS Video for Forestry Workers (Spanish; EPA Worker PST 00003; 22 minutes)
National Worker Protection Standard: A Manual for Trainers of Agricultural Workers and Pesticide Handlers (EPA 730-B-16-001)
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’)
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