2015 WPS REGULATIONS effective January 2, 2017
Worker Protection is your responsibility
The WPS requires employers to take steps to protect primarily two types of agricultural employees: workers and handlers. In addition, the WPS provides certain protections for “other persons” during pesticide applications (e.g., nonworker/handler employees, family members, customers, government officials and any bystanders).
Failure to comply with the Worker Protection Standard can result in heavy fines up to $25,000 per violation and 1 year in prison. Different states have heavier fines. Knowingly violating WPS can result in even greater fines and misdemeanor charges. It is your responsibility to comply with the letter of the law.
Who Must Comply?
Most people who employ (for salary, wages or other monetary compensation) others to do agricultural work must comply with the WPS. Even if you are self-employed or only you and your family members work at your establishment, you are a WPS employer.
If you own, or are responsible for the management or condition any of the following types of businesses which use pesticides for the production of agricultural plants, and employ workers or handlers, you must comply with the WPS:
- Enclosed space production facilities (producing plants indoors or in a structure or space that is covered in whole or part by any nonporous covering and is large enough for a person to enter)
*If the agricultural establishment hires or contracts for the services of agricultural workers (uses a labor contractor) to do tasks relating to the production of the agricultural plants, they are responsible for WPS compliance, NOT the labor contractor.
WPS Exemptions for Owners & Immediate Family members
WPS exempts owners of agricultural establishments and members of their immediate family from certain requirements. More information on these exemptions can be found in Chapter 6 of the How to Comply Manual.
It is important to note that:
- No agricultural establishments that use WPS-labeled pesticide products are completely exempt from the WPS requirements,
- Owners/agricultural employers must provide full WPS protections for workers and handlers who are not in the owners’ immediate families, and
- Owners and their immediate family members that qualify for the exemption must comply with some of the WPS requirements.
Under WPS, a labor contractor is a person, other than a commercial pesticide handler, who employs workers or handlers to perform tasks on an agricultural establishment for an agricultural employer or a commercial pesticide handler employer. The labor contractor can be assigned WPS responsibilities (such as providing pesticide safety training) but is not responsible for WPS compliance on the agricultural establishment or commercial pesticide handling establishment.
Commercial Pesticide Handling Establishments (Commercial Applicators)
If you operate a business in which you, or the people you employ as handlers, apply pesticides that are used in the production of agricultural plants in any of the businesses listed above, you must comply with the WPS. Read Chapter 5 of the How to Comply Manual for more information on your responsibilities.
*If your employees are licensed commercial pesticide applicators, you do not need to provide handler pesticide safety training. However, you must comply with all other WPS provisions for Commercial Pesticide Handling Establishments.
If you operate a business in which you or the people you employ act as crop consultants or crop scouts, meaning that you assess pest numbers or damage, pesticide distribution, or the status, condition, or requirements of agricultural plants, you must comply with the WPS.
The WPS does not require a “crop advisor” to have any specific certification or training to be recognized as a crop advisor. However, certain WPS exemptions apply only to certified crop advisors.
Non-certified crop advisors must be provided with the WPS protections required for worker or handler activities depending on the tasks being conducted by the crop advisor. The crop advisor employer (including the self-employed crop advisor) is responsible for providing all required WPS protections to noncertified crop advisors.
More information on the exemptions and exceptions for crop advisors is found in Chapter 6 of the How to Comply Manual.
Putting it into Practice
The best way to protect your workers and to decrease your liability is to ensure that workers are well-informed about how to work safely with pesticides. WPS requires that you provide the following to your workers:
- Pesticide safety training. You must provide in-depth pesticide safety training for both pesticide handlers and agricultural workers. EPA has specific requirements for the content of this training. Use our WPS training page to learn more.
- Pesticide safety poster. You must display a pesticide safety poster at a central location. This poster must have been developed by the EPA like the one at right, or must contain specific information listed in the How to Comply Manual.
- Pesticide application and hazard information (SDS) and access to the information — centrally-located pesticide application information and safety data sheets (SDS) in an area accessible to workers and handlers. This information must be kept for 2 years on the establishment and must be provided to the employee, medical personnel or the employee’s designated representative upon request.
- Notify workers about treated areas — posting signs or providing oral notification to avoid inadvertent pesticide exposures.
- Information exchange — between commercial pesticide handler employers and agricultural employers.
It is always possible for pesticide exposure to occur, even if you provide all the correct information and protection to your employees. To mitigate those risks, the WPS requires the following:
- Decontamination supplies. You must provide workers and handlers with an specific supply of soap, water, and clean towels for both routine washing and emergency decontamination. For workers, you must supply at least 1 gallon water/worker at the beginning of the work period. For handlers, you must provide enough water to wash the entire body (at least 3 gallons) and a clean set of clothes.
- Emergency assistance. If a worker or handler who you currently employ or have previously employed has been injured or poisoned by a pesticide used on the establishment, you must:
- Provide transportation to an emergency medical facility.
- Provide information about the pesticide either to the worker or to medical personnel. The label and safety data sheet provides the most convenient form of this information. In addition, you must provide the circumstances of the exposure.
- Eyewash water — for handlers using pesticides requiring protective eyewear.
In order to ensure that your employees are protected from pesticide exposure, the WPS requires employers to do the following:
- Exclude workers and others from areas being treated with pesticides.
- Exclude workers and others from the application exclusion zone (AEZ) within the boundaries of the agricultural establishment during pesticide applications.
- Exclude workers from areas that remain under a restricted-entry interval (REI), with narrow exceptions.
- Ensure a pesticide handler or an early-entry worker (one that enters a treated site prior to the expiration of the REI) be a minimum of 18 years old.
- Prohibit handlers from applying a pesticide in a way that will expose workers or other persons.
- Protect handlers during handling tasks including monitoring while handling highly toxic pesticides.
- Provide, maintain and ensure the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE) including enhanced protections for the use of respirators.
- Protect early-entry workers who are doing permitted tasks in treated areas during a REI, including special instructions and duties related to correct use of PPE.
In addition, the WPS requires handlers to:
- Apply pesticides in a way that will not expose workers or other persons.
- Suspend applications if anyone, other than a trained and equipped handler involved with the application, is in the AEZ during a pesticide application (which may be outside the establishment’s property boundary).
- Wear PPE specified on the pesticide product labeling.