Required training under the agricultural worker standards
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August 26, 2016
Required training under the agricultural worker standards

Compliance with most of EPA’s revised protection standard for agricultural workers is required by January 2, 2017. The intent of the revisions is to reduce occupational pesticide exposure and incidents of related illness among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers and to protect bystanders and others from exposure to agricultural pesticide use.

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Among the revisions to the standard, perhaps the most onerous for agricultural employers is the change in the training requirement from every 5 years to annually.  EPA’s rulemaking clearly indicates that training must be effective. For example, the rule requires that training must be conducted in locations that are conducive to training and relatively free from distractions; the trainer must be present during the entire training session; the training materials must be presented in a manner the workers understand (mainly this means a translation must be provided if needed); and the trainer must answer any questions the workers have.  

Contents of program

The training requirements come in two parts. Initially, training must include 11 topics listed in the revised regulations. However, the rule states that once the EPA makes available “public training materials,” employers will be required “no earlier that January 1, 2018,” to include an expanded list of 23 topics in their training programs. Those training materials are now available in English and 12 other languages here. Given the much larger number of required training elements that must be included beginning in 2018, agricultural employers are advised to move expeditiously to ensure that their programs are fully compliant by the deadline.

The initial and subsequent contents for training programs are listed at 40 CFR 170.401. While all elements must be part of the training, several that may require more focused training include the following:

  • Where and in what forms pesticides may be encountered during work activities and potential sources of pesticide exposure on the agricultural establishment. This includes exposure to pesticide residues that may be on or in plants, soil, tractors, application and chemigation equipment, or used personal protective equipment, and that pesticides may drift through the air from nearby applications or be in irrigation water.
  • Potential hazards from toxicity and exposure that pesticides present to workers and their families, including acute and chronic effects, delayed effects, and sensitization.
  • Routine and emergency decontamination procedures, including emergency eye-flushing techniques and if pesticides are spilled or sprayed on the body, to use decontamination supplies to wash immediately or rinse off in the nearest clean water, including springs, streams, lakes, or other sources if more readily available than decontamination supplies, and as soon as possible, wash or shower with soap and water, shampoo hair, and change into clean clothes.
  • The rule prohibits agricultural employers from allowing or directing any worker to mix, load, or apply pesticides or assist in the application of pesticides unless the worker has been trained as a handler.
  • After working in pesticide-treated areas, remove work boots or shoes before entering a home, and remove work clothes and wash or shower before physical contact with children or family members.
  • How to report suspected pesticide use violations to the state or tribal agency responsible for pesticide enforcement.
  • The rule prohibits agricultural employers from intimidating, threatening, coercing, or discriminating against any worker or handler for complying with or attempting to comply with the requirements of this rule, or because the worker or handler provided, caused to be provided, or is about to provide information to the employer or the EPA or its agents regarding conduct that the employee reasonably believes violates the regulations, and/or made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing concerning compliance with the rule.

The final worker protection regulations for pesticides were published in the November 2, 2015, FR.

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