The must-read manual for growers on the 2015 revised Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is now available. Horticultural growers such as greenhouses and nurseries will be most affected by these changes because of the numbers of workers they employ. Retailers are also affected if pesticides are applied to holding areas. 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.
WPS protects workers who are exposed to pesticides or pesticide residues on crops. Worker protections are not indefinite; they extend for 30 days after a pesticide restricted-entry interval expires. So with minor exceptions, employees not directly involved with handling crops or spraying them aren’t covered by WPS. WPS also does not apply to livestock production or non-agricultural uses, such as lawn and landscape.
The new rules require employers to train workers and pesticide handlers 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 WPS 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.
Growers can download a copy of the new WPS compliance manual and other EPA-approved training resources from the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC). New WPS worker training videos in English and Spanish also can be downloaded from PERC; worker and handler training manuals are expected to be available in 2017. All materials are free-of-charge.
Worker Protection Standard Updates will be offered by OSU Extension starting this winter. See the Ohio Pesticide Safety Education WPS page as they become available.