Worker Protection Standard training requirements for growers

A summary of Worker Protection Standard (WPS) training requirements and some resources to help you stay compliant.

Worker Protection Standard training requirements for growers

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is designed to reduce the risk of pesticide accidents with workers in agriculture. Some of the requirements set forth in the 2015 revision of the WPS were selected for delayed implementation to give growers time to ready themselves for compliance. The latest set of regulations from this revision went into effect Jan. 2, 2018.

The following information is a summary of essential training requirements and exemptions specified in the WPS along with some EPA-approved sources for training materials.

Pesticide safety training for workers and handlers

  • Workers need to be trained before entering a pesticide treated area. (A treated area is one in which an REI from a pesticide application has been in effect within the last 30 days.) This often means workers will need to be trained their first day on the job.
  • Handlers need to be trained before engaging in any handler activity.
  • Employers must ensure workers and handlers receive pesticide safety training annually.
  • Pesticide safety training must be delivered in a manner employees can understand.
    • Trainers must be present for the duration of the training session.
    • Trainers must respond to questions from the trainees.
  • Employers are required to keep training records for at least two years.
  • Employers must inform workers and handlers on where to find the following safety-related materials at the worksite:
    • EPA WPS Safety Poster
    • Hazard communication information (what pesticide was applied, REI, etc.)
    • Safety data sheets
    • Decontamination supplies (water, soap, single-use towels)

Training materials for handlers and workers

  • Training must be presented orally from written materials or audio-visually (i.e., a video).
  • Use EPA-approved presentation materials with a designated EPA approval number.
  • New for 2018: Expanded content must be included in all training sessions.

Where to find materials

Note: Training on the expanded content needs to happen within six months (180 days) after EPA announces the availability of training materials. The most current videos on the Pesticide Education Resource Collaborative site are EPA-approved and will be sufficient to satisfy this requirement.

Trainers

To be a trainer, you must have accomplished one of the following:

  • Be a licensed/certified restricted-use pesticide (RUP) applicator.
  • Have completed an EPA-approved Train-the-Trainer course.
  • Be designated by state, tribe or EPA as a qualified trainer.

Notes on Train-the-Trainer courses

The Pesticide Education Resource Collaborative website has a free, downloadable curriculum for delivering a Train-the-Trainer course. As a bonus, Train-the-Trainer instructors that deliver an entire course are considered to have finished the Train-the-Trainer course and are thus qualified to be a trainer of workers and handlers for WPS pesticide safety training.

Respirator training

Respirator training must occur annually for any employee that is required to use a respirator, including owners, immediate family and certified crop advisors. Specific training materials are not required. However, the handler employer must ensure that each handler can demonstrate knowledge of the following, according to OSHA’s Respiratory Protection informational booklet:

  • Why a respirator is required and the reasons for selecting a specific type of respirator.
  • The capabilities and limitations of the selected respirator.
  • How to inspect, put on and remove, and check the seals of the respirator.
  • How to use, maintain and store the respirator properly.
  • What can happen if the respirator does not fit properly or is not being used and maintained correctly.
  • How to use the respirator effectively in emergency situations, including when the respirator malfunctions.
  • How to recognize medical signs and symptoms that may limit or prevent the effective use of the respirator.

Exemptions from WPS training obligations

Agricultural business owners and their immediate family are exempt from many WPS training requirements, including:

  • Pesticide safety training for workers and handlers.
  • Providing information on where to find the EPA WPS Safety Poster, hazard communication information, safety data sheets and decontamination supplies (water, soap, single-use towels).
  • Training for equipment used in pesticide handling activities.

According to the “How to Comply” manual, an immediate family includes: spouse, parents, stepparents, foster parents, father‐in‐law, mother‐in‐law, children, stepchildren, foster children, sons‐in‐law, daughters‐in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, brothers‐in‐law, sisters‐in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and first cousins.

Certified restricted-use pesticide (RUP) applicators are exempt from WPS worker and handler training requirements.

Certified crop advisors are also exempt from WPS pesticide safety training. However, non-certified crop advisors are required to receive the appropriate annual training as workers or handlers from their employer. Within the scope of the WPS, a certified crop advisor is someone who has been certified by the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants or another program that has been approved by EPA, tribal or state authorities. Self-employed crop advisors are obligated to provide themselves with appropriate WPS training.

Note: This section only includes training exemptions. While owners and their immediate family are exempt from many of the WPS requirements if they own over 50 percent of the business, any employees outside of the immediate family should be provided with all applicable protections. From a safety standpoint, it is in the best interest of the grower to obtain a similar level of WPS knowledge and training as their employees.

Please refer to Chapter 6 of the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative “How to Comply” manual for a comprehensive discussion of owner, family and certified crop advisor exemptions.

Conclusion

Sorting through the Code of Federal Regulations can seem like a tall task for any one person. Subject matter is usually woven throughout the document, intertwined with related concepts, and often requires a bit of untangling to obtain a clear overview of any given topic. While the contents of this article are intended to be an inclusive guide to the WPS training requirements for agriculture, they should not be considered a substitute for the advice from a professional consultant or agricultural labor attorney.

The material presented here has been compiled from several sources including the Code of Federal Regulations and Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative. As with any subject related to regulatory compliance, please consult official sources for interpretation and final rulings.

Thank you to Julie Yocum and Susan Bagley from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for their review of this article.

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