The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday revealed a proposed plan to strengthen pesticide protections for farm workers, including efforts to improve training and education on pesticide safety.
Under the proposal, EPA moves from mandatory safety training for workers every five years to annual training. It also requires the farm operator to retain records on training and the type of pesticides used on the farm.
Additional signage to inform farm workers about the protections they are afforded under the law will be required.
In addition, posting of no-entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides, prohibiting entry into pesticide-treated fields until residues decline to a safe level, will be mandatory. Expanded 25-100 ft. buffer areas surrounding pesticide-treated fields will also be required to protect workers and others from exposure from pesticide overspray and fumes.
Finally, EPA has proposed that farmworkers under 16 be legally barred from handling all pesticides, with an exemption for family farms. Currently, under-16 handling of toxicity category one and two pesticides is regulated under the Fair Labor Standards Act, but all pesticides, regardless of toxicity, would be regulated with the new proposal.
To be eligible for family farm exemption, the farm must not be a corporation. Persons under the age of 16 working on the establishment owned by an immediate family member would be exempt from the proposed minimum age requirements, clarified Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
EPA says the revisions will protect workers while ensuring agricultural productivity and preserving the traditions of family farms.
"We can't turn our backs on the people that feed the nation – they deserve to be protected," Jones said during a press call. He underscored a need for stricter safety protections without impacting productivity.