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Worker Protection Standards Set New Rules

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Many of you know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized the rule on Worker Protection Standards (WPS), which dictate rules for the protection of workers during an agricultural pesticide application, but what is less known is that the old rule remains in effect until Jan. 1, 2017, with a few provisions of the new standard taking effect January 2018. 

Following are the main changes in the new standard.

First of all the good news. The family exemption has been expanded to include brothers and sisters, sons- and daughters-in-law as well as nieces, nephews and first cousins. In addition, a family operation is now defined as one that is majority owned by a family, rather than wholly-owned. This change means that family-owned entities, such as LLCs or corporations, fall within the family exemption, provided they do not employ non-family members.

However, the new rule broadens the definition of “employ” in a manner that means anyone who would enter a treated area during the Re-entry Interval (REI), will need to be trained. This definition of “employ” would also include folks such as the electrician who will service your center pivot, the implement dealer’s repairman who might enter to service your sprayer or the tire repairman.

Another change is that under the old rule, there was a five-day grace period before training was required for an employee. This grace period has been eliminated.  Training of all those in your employ is still required annually, provided that they are not a licensed pesticide applicator – private or commercial. The minimum age for anyone in your employ to enter during the REI is now 18 years.

Training records and documentation will be required to be kept for two years, and you must grant employees their records when requested, as well as provide these records to your employee’s representative upon written request.

We will also need to learn a new term, the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ).  Within this zone, application must cease, even if this is on a neighboring property. Tentatively, we believe that this AEZ will be within 100 feet of aerial applications and 25 feet of ground applications, but this is not yet certain.  We expect, as labels are updated, that this AEZ may differ with the product(s) being applied.

There are also changes regarding communicating hazards. One such change is that Safety Data Sheets (SDS), formerly called MSDS or Material Safety Data Sheets, for each product applied will need to be available at the central communication point.  A related change is that when you transport someone to a medical facility for treatment of an exposure, you will be required to bring the appropriate SDSs with you.

Finally, any product that has an REI greater than 48 hours will need to be posted.  Fortunately, there are very few products in use with a REI greater than 48 hours, but one should always verify the REI when reading the label before making an application.

While we’ve touched on the main points, the devil is often in the details.  Over the course of the next year, there will be training available throughout Wyoming. We are hoping to provide training in each county, so that all licensed applicators will be knowledgeable regarding the new Worker Protection Standards.

Kennedy is the executive director of the Wyoming Ag Business Association, which represents crop input suppliers and manufacturers.

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