Washington State Ag Department Adopts Rules Aligned with Federal Worker Regs

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has adopted rules updating Worker Protection Standards to correspond to federal regulations. The new rules regarding pesticide use were signed by Director Derek Sandison and will take effect Jan. 13, 2018.

 

In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made changes to federal worker protection requirements covering the use of pesticides. The changes address worker training, information posting, decontamination and other issues. Some of the changes were scheduled to take effect in 2017, however EPA delayed implementation until January 2018.

“The Worker Protection Standards cover a lot of areas,” said Director Sandison. “It’s critical that agricultural employers learn and understand what’s being required to comply and protect their workers and their communities.”

Before EPA adopted the WPS changes, many of Washington’s rules were stricter and more protective than federal requirements. For example, new regulations for medical evaluations, respirator fit testing and training bring federal requirements up to standards that have been in place in Washington for more than 20 years. Other provisions of the new federal standards have been incorporated into WSDA’s new rules, such as:

  • Workers and handlers must be trained every year, instead of every five years as previously required. Also a record of that training must be kept for two years.
  • The type of information and location where it’s displayed have been expanded and specified. For example, Safety Data Sheets must be posted along with application and safety info in a spot that’s easily seen by workers and handlers.
  • Agricultural employers must keep everyone – except properly trained and equipped pesticide handlers –out of the area surrounding the application equipment as pesticides are being applied.

WSDA is coordinating with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, which is in the process of updating its own rules to reflect the federal WPS. While each agency’s rulemaking process is separate, state law requires that both agencies rules be consistent.

 

Over the past year, WSDA has been working with agricultural employers and workers to help them understand the WPS, providing technical assistance and training to the new requirements. Until final EPA-approved resources and training materials are available, WSDA will continue with education and outreach efforts through the 2018 growing season, before beginning enforcement of the new rules, allowing industry time to implement the changes.
To read the adopted rules, visit WSDA’s website.