New York - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined by Denny Doyle from Atlantic Blueberry Company; Assistant Commissioner of Compliance and Enforcement Ray Bukowski from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection; and NJ Farm Loan Manager Ellen Schmidt from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to discuss stronger protections for agricultural workers and pesticide handlers required by the recently updated Worker Protection Standard. EPA finalized new federal regulations in September 2015, which will go into effect in January 2017.
Regional Administrator Enck visited the Atlantic Blueberry Farm in Hammonton, NJ today to focus on how the new standards will help NJ farmworkers.
“There are approximately 13,000 farmworkers in the state of New Jersey, and every farmworker deserves a safe and healthy work environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “EPA is committed to reducing the exposure of toxic pesticides to farmworkers and their families.”
EPA's Worker Protection Standard rule provides stronger protections for the nation's two million agricultural workers and handlers working on farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses. The updated EPA regulation strengthens requirements for training, notification, pesticide safety and hazard communication, as well as the use of personal protective equipment and the availability of supplies for routine washing and emergency decontamination. The revisions announced in September 2016 were the first changes made to the rule in 24 years.
These provisions will help ensure farmworkers nationwide receive annual safety training; that children under the age of 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides; and that workers are aware of the protections they are afforded under today’s action and have the tools needed to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure. Every farm will need to comply with the new standard. In New Jersey, this standard will be enforced by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, with technical support from the EPA.
For workers and handlers of pesticide products on agricultural establishments, EPA will require:
- The minimum age for pesticide handlers and early-entry workers has been established at 18 years of age. The minimum age in New Jersey was previously 16 years old. Although members of owner’s immediate family are exempt from this and most other requirements of the WPS.
- Annual mandatory training for farmworkers so they can be informed on how to protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposures. Previously, trainings happened once every five years in NJ.
- Each farmworker must now be provided with at least 1 gallon of water at the beginning of each work period and handlers must get 3 gallons of water for decontamination. No quantities of water were specifically spelled out previously.
- Farmworkers will now be trained on safety before they go out into the field to work. Previously, farms had up to five days to offer the training.
- Content and availability of hazard communications need to be posted.
- Employers must now provide respirator and fit testing, training and medical evaluation that conforms to Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for any handler required to wear any respirator by the labeling. Recordkeeping of completion of fit test, training and medical evaluation is now also required.
- Each farm must now provide a system capable of delivering .4 gallons of water for eye washing per minute for 15 minutes, or 6 gallons of water able to flow for 15 minutes if handlers use products requiring eye protection or use a pressurized closed system.
Additionally, EPA is making improvements to the training programs including limiting pesticide exposure to farmworker families. By better protecting agricultural workers, EPA anticipates fewer pesticide exposure incidents among farmworkers and their family members. Fewer incidents means a healthier workforce and avoiding lost wages and medical bills.