Worker Protection Standard
In 1992, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued rules governing the protection of employees on farms, or in forests, nurseries and greenhouses from occupational exposure to agricultural pesticides. The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) covers:
- agricultural workers—performing tasks related to the cultivation and harvesting of plants on farms or in greenhouses, nurseries, or forests
- pesticide handlers—assigned to mix, load or apply agricultural pesticides; clean or repair equipment; act as flaggers, etc.
Employers are responsible for making sure that workers and handlers receive the protections required by the pesticide labeling and the WPS. There are two types of employers:
- agricultural employersemploy or contract for the services of workers or own/operate an establishment that employs workers
- handler employershire pesticide handlers or are self-employed as handlers. This definition includes commercial applicators and companies which supply crop advisory services on agricultural establishments
This site explains many of the employer requirements under the WPS. A general overview of the regulation is summarized in the brochure - WPS-Duties of Employers (PDF)
Whether or not you employ workers and handlers, at a minimum, all applicators of agricultural pesticides are required to comply with personal protective equipment and restricted entry statements on the pesticide labels!
- On this page:
- WPS-Duties of Employers
- WPS-Nurseries and Greenhouses
- WPS-Family Business Exemptions
- WPS Brochure: Protect Yourself from Pesticides
- Pesticide application log book
- Sample page from log book
- WPS Central Information Display Application Information List
- WPS Inspection Checklist
- Bi-lingual WPS Worker Training through the Maine Migrant Health Program
- Excellent on-line videos from Iowa State University
- Worker and Handler training videos available for streaming on-line
If you have questions about the Worker Protection Standard, please e-mail Gary Fish at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some WPS protections that employers must provide are nearly the same whether the employees are workers or handlers.
- Information at a central location
- Decontamination supplies
- Emergency assistance
- Pesticide safety training
- Information exchange
For the benefit of all employees, information must be posted at an easily seen, central location:
- facts about each pesticide application (click here to download a form for posting WPS application records(pdf))
- product name, EPA registration number, and active ingredient(s)
- location and description of treated area(s)
- the time and date of the application and the restricted-entry interval (REI)
This pesticide information must be posted just prior to application and must remain posted for 30 days after the end of the restricted entry interval listed on the pesticide label
- the name, address and telephone number of the nearest emergency medical facility
- an EPA WPS safety poster
Employers must tell workers and handlers where the information is posted and allow them access. The information must remain legible and employees must be notified of any changes to the emergency medical facility information.
Employers must provide a site where workers and handlers can wash pesticides and residues from their hands and body.
A decontamination site must contain:
- enough water for routine and emergency whole-body washing and for eye flushing (approx. 1 gallon per person)
- plenty of soap and single-use towels
- a clean coverall, for use by handlers
A decontamination site must be within 1/4 mile of the employees' work site. If the work place is more than 1/4 mile from the nearest point of vehicular access, the decontamination site may be located at the nearest access point.
Handler employers must also provide a decontamination site:
- where handlers remove their personal protective equipment (PPE) at the end of a task
- at each mixing site
Emergency eye flush water must be immediately available if the pesticide label calls for protective eyewear.
The decontamination site may not be located in an area under restricted entry unless it serves handlers working in that area. In this case, all supplies must be protected from contamination.
When any handler or worker may have been poisoned or injured by pesticides, an employer must promptly make transportation available to an appropriate medical facility. Employers must provide the victim and medical personnel with:
- the product name, EPA registration number, and active ingredient(s)
- all first aid and medical information from the label
- a description of how the pesticide was used
- information about the victim's exposure
Handlers and workers must be trained every five (5) years unless they are licensed private or commercial pesticide applicators.
- Handlers must be trained before they do any handling activity.
- Workers must receive either basic pesticide safety information or full, WPS worker pesticide safety training before they enter an area on the agricultural establishment which has been treated or under restricted-entry interval (REI) in the last 30 days. When basic pesticide safety information is given, workers must still receive the full, WPS pesticide safety training within 5 days.
Training may be conducted by a certified applicator or by someone who has completed a train-the-trainer program. Training may be done orally and/or audio visually, but must be in a manner and language that employees can understand, using an interpreter when necessary. Trainers must respond to questions.
A grower must be informed when a pesticide is to be applied on his/her property by a commercial applicator. The commercial applicator must provide the grower all the information needed to be posted, plus:
- whether both oral warnings and postings are required
- if there are other protection requirements on the label for workers or other people
On the other hand, the grower must make sure the commercial applicator is aware of:
- all areas where pesticides will be applied or where an restricted-entry interval (REI) might be in effect while the commercial applicator is on the establishment, and
- entry restrictions for those areas
Agricultural employers must also provide some additional protections specifically for their workers
Agricultural employers must also provide some additional protections specifically for their workers.
An employer must keep all workers, other than trained and equipped handlers, out of areas being treated with pesticides. Under some application conditions, nursery and greenhouse workers must also be kept an additional distance from the treated area. Consult the Worker Protection Standard for special application restrictions for nurseries and greenhouses. (The additional restrictions for Nurseries and Greenhouses are also explained in the brochure - WPS-Nurseries and Greenhouses (PDF)
The restricted-entry interval is the time immediately after a pesticide application when entry into the treated area is limited. During an REI, do not allow workers to enter a treated area or contact anything treated with the pesticide to which the REI applies.
REIs are located on the Agricultural Use Requirements section of the pesticide label. When two (or more) pesticides are applied at the same time and have different REIs, you must follow the longer interval.
Employers must notify workers about pesticide applications on the establishment. In most cases, employers may choose between oral warnings or posted warning signs, but they must tell workers which warning method is in effect. For some pesticides, however, employers have to do both.
Warning signs must be posted 24 hours or less before application, during the restricted-entry interval (REI), and removed before workers enter or within 3 days after the end of the REI. When standard-size signs of 14" x 16" are used, they should be posted so they can be seen at all normal entrances to treated areas, including entrances from labor camps. When smaller signs are used, specific lettering size and posting distances must be followed. Refer contact the Board of Pesticides Control for details about smaller signs.
Oral warnings must be delivered in a manner understood by workers, using an interpreter, if necessary. Oral warnings must contain the following information:
- location and description of treated area
- the REI
- specific directions not to enter during the REI
Handler employers are also required to provide the following protections to their employees.
Handler employers are also required to provide these protections to their employees:
- Application restrictions
- Specific instructions for handlers
- Personal protective equipment
- Cleaning and maintaining PPE
- Equipment Safety
Do not allow handlers to apply a pesticide so that it contacts, directly or through drift, anyone other than trained and PPE-equipped handlers.
Sight or voice contact must be made at least every two (2) hours with anyone handling pesticides labeled with a skull and crossbones (signal word: DANGER-POISON).
Handler employers must make sure that before any handling task, the handlers:
- are given information from the pesticide's labeling regarding its safe use
- have access to the labeling during the entire handling task
- are instructed in the safe operation of the equipment they will be using
Commercial handler employers must make sure their employees are aware of areas on an establishment where pesticides have been applied or where a restricted-entry interval (REI) is in effect and are aware of restrictions on entering those areas.
When personal protective equipment is required by product labeling, the handler employer must:
- provide the PPE to each pesticide handler
- make sure that each handler wears and uses the PPE correctly
- clean and maintain the PPE correctly
- provide each handler a clean place to put on and remove PPE and to store personal clothing
- take action, if necessary, to prevent heat-related illness while PPE is being worn
- not allow any handler to wear or to take home PPE used for handling activities
The employer must make sure:
- PPE is cleaned, inspected and repaired before each use
- PPE is cleaned according to manufacturer's instructions
- PPE that is non-reusable or cannot be cleaned is disposed of
- clothing drenched with pesticide concentrates labeled DANGER or WARNING are disposed of
- PPE is washed and stored separately from personal clothing
- clean PPE is dried appropriately
- respirator filters, cartridges and canisters are replaced as often as required
The handler employer must make sure anyone cleaning PPE is informed of possible pesticide residues on PPE, of the potentially harmful effects of pesticides, and of the correct ways to handle and clean PPE.
Handler employers must make sure that equipment used for mixing, loading, transferring or applying pesticides is inspected and repaired or replaced as needed.
Only appropriately trained and equipped handlers may repair, clean or adjust pesticide handling equipment that contains pesticides or pesticide residues.
What to expect when we unexpectedly visit:
The Board of Pesticides Control has five districts throughout the State that are routinely monitored by inspectors. They inspect all types of pesticide use and sales, respond to complaints about pesticides, and offer courtesy visits and educational information to help ensure that pesticides are used and distributed properly.
If pesticides are applied to plants at your farm, forest, nursery or greenhouse, the federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS) will be one of the things we will inquire about via a thorough interview and checklist process. All of our inspections are designed to check for compliance USING AN "Inspection Checklist"(PDF), but they are also intended to keep you informed about pesticide laws, including WPS and the protections it provides. Our goal is to have everyone involved with pesticides aware of the rules and doing their best to live up to them.
In most cases, our inspectors will come to your business unannounced in order to perform an accurate assessment of your pesticide activities. Inspectors do take into consideration the time constraints of peak growing season when scheduling these unexpected visits throughout the year.
The entire inspection, including WPS, averages about 1 to 2 hours. The WPS portion can range from as little as 5 minutes for a one-person business, to a couple of hours for a complex operation with many employees.
During the WPS portion of the inspection, we will first determine if you operate a family or non-family business, and then use the appropriate checklist to determine if you are in compliance. We will ask many detailed questions of the owner or manager with whom we are conducting the inspection, and will also interview workers and pesticide handlers to confirm they are given the required protections.
Our inspector will point out violations noted during the inspections (if any) and will tell you how to meet compliance. Occasionally there are additional violations found during later review of inspection data. If violations are noted at either of these times, the inspector will send you a "Compliance Checklist" in the mail. This checklist will be the inspector's written review of violations found and corrective actions needed. In many instances, no additional enforcement action will result from the compliance issues noted. However, you should be aware that whether a more formal enforcement response is warranted is left to the sole discretion of the seven member Board of Pesticides Control.
Our inspectors have direct one-on-one contact with the entire pesticide-using community, as well as with the general public. They have a unique opportunity to provide specific information to keep people and the environment safe, and to promote compliance with pesticide regulations. Our goal is to help keep you and your employees safe and working within the law.