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EPA worker protection standards in effect
By DOROTHY NOBLE
BEDFORD, Pa. (March 28, 2017) — Jim Harvey, project associate at Penn State University, explained requirements of several worker protection standards to a group of tree fruit growers at the recent winter meeting of the Appalachian Fruit Growers.
Harvey highlighted the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for employee training, respirators, application exclusion zones and entry restriction postings.
Several additional requirements became effective on Jan. 2 of this year.
Handlers now must have the worker protection standard training every year.
EPA materials must be used, and the training must be provided in a manner the handlers can understand.
The employer’s family is excepted in addition to certified applicators of restricted-use pesticides and certified or licensed crop advisors.
Trainers must be qualified and the records kept for two years.
Personal protective equipment for handlers includes respirators.
If the pesticide label requires a respirator, the employer must provide medical evaluations, fit testing and training to the handlers.
This includes particulate filtering facepiece respirators. Loose-fitting respirators do not need fit-testing.
WPS follows the protocols of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
A medical evaluation to determine if the handler is physically able to use a respirator must be conducted prior to the fit test.
The evaluation must be performed by a licensed health care professional—Harvey recommended a registered nurse.
The evaluation can also be performed online. Harvey pointed out that the online price is $25 to $30.
He advised the growers to obtain documentation. The evaluation must be conducted prior to the fit test. Also, he noted that several agricultural supply companies stock fit tests.
Since one size does not fit all, two fit testing methods are available to determine the correct fit for most tight-fitting facepieces.
The qualitative fit test relies on the user’s response to a test agent such as banana oil, saccharin or irritant smoke.
If the user detects the agent, the face seal is unsuccessful and the test fails.
In the more accurate quantitative fit test, an instrument samples the concentration of a test agent in the ambient atmosphere and inside the user’s facepiece.
This more expensive test requires special equipment and a trained person to conduct the test.
Harvey noted that beards may need to be cropped.
The requirements state that if facial hair comes beneath the sealing surface of the facepiece or interferes with valve function, the handler cannot use a tight fitting facepiece.
The powered purifier respirator does not require a fit test but still requires the medical evaluation. Harvey noted it is easiest on the handler’s heart and lungs.
However, it can cost about $1,200 at agricultural supply companies.
The WPS requires the agricultural employer to keep workers and others out of the treated area and AEZ during pesticide applications.
The size of the AEZ is determined by the method of application and the spray quality.
The EPA indicates the AEZ moves with the application equipment like a halo.
Harvey noted a 100-feet ‘bubble’ is required for high drift applications such as air blast and aerial spraying. Low drift applications depend on the height and spray quality of an application and could require 25 feet.
Starting on Jan. 2, 2018, the handler must suspend a pesticide application if a worker or other person is in any portion of the AEZ, and cannot proceed until the applicator can ensure that the pesticide will not contact any persons in the AEZ, including areas beyond the boundary.
Harvey reminded the growers of the need for posting of signs.
In addition, agricultural employers must not allow any workers to enter a treated area until the restricted entry interval has expired, all of the posted no-entry signs are removed, and the pesticide application information and the safety data sheet are posted.
The manual, “How to Comply With the 2015 Revised Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides,” Harvey noted, is effective this year.
It is available in English and Spanish, and downloadable at the website, epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety, under the heading “How to Comply Manual.” A quick reference guide with links to the appropriate sections is available as well.