October 27, 2016 - 8:51am -- lewandowski.11

The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a federal regulation issued by the U.S. EPA.  It applies to all agricultural growers and has training requirements for growers who employ help with pesticide related duties.  The WPS was revised in 2015 but the final rule was just released in 2016.  In early October the new WPS compliance manual for employers was released.  The WPS encompasses farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses.  Horticultural employers and intensive crop production facilities are most impacted by these changes because of the numbers of workers employed and the nature of the work.  University research farms and greenhouses also fall under WPS, as well as pesticide application businesses that treat crops.

Employers can download a copy of the new WPS compliance manual and other EPA-approved training resources from the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC) http://pesticideresources.org/index.html .  New WPS worker training videos in English and Spanish are also available; worker and handler training manuals are expected to be available in 2017.   All PERC materials are free-of-charge. 

These standards are occupational hazard regulations that protect people who both handle and apply pesticides used in crop production, or who are exposed to residues on crops.  Worker protections are not indefinite; they extend for 30 days after a pesticide restricted-entry interval expires.  So with few exceptions, employees that are not directly involved with handling crops or spraying them during the growing season aren’t covered by WPS.   WPS also does not apply to livestock production or non-agricultural uses, such as lawn and landscape. 

Farm owners are exempt from many WPS requirements if employees are also family members (spouse, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, first cousin, foster- and step-parent, child, or sibling, and in-laws: parent, son, daughter, brother, sister).  There is no family exemption from providing personal protective equipment or observing restricted entry intervals or other application restrictions that appear on pesticide labels. 

WPS protections for workers are very comprehensive.   The rules include requirements for safety training, posting of application information, application signage and verbal warnings, restrictions during applications, decontamination supplies, and emergency assistance.  The new rules require workers and pesticide handler safety training annually instead of every five years.  New employees must be trained before handling pesticides or working in pesticide-treated areas, and only licensed pesticide applicators or EPA-approved trainers will be able conduct worker training. There is also a first-time-ever age (18) requirement for pesticide handlers and new recordkeeping requirements.

Compliance with most new rules is required by January 2, 2017.  Compliance with new training content, centrally displayed information and application exclusion zone restrictions is delayed until January 1, 2018. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has the authority to enforce WPS in Ohio and conducts WPS inspections.  Worker Protection Standard updates will be offered through OSU Extension and will be posted on the Ohio Pesticide Safety Education WPS page as they become available.  More information is available on-line at: http://pesticideresources.org/index.html  Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC) - WPS Compliance manual and http://pested.osu.edu/home/quicklinks/wps, Ohio Pesticide Safety Education - WPS resources.