EPA Updates Pesticide Rules for Farmworkers

     (CN) – The EPA announced new rules Monday that will prohibit kids under 18 from handling pesticides and enhance training for the nation’s 2 million agricultural workers.
     The changes brought by the Environmental Protection Agency are part of a revision to 20-year-old rules designed to protect farmworkers from toxic pesticides.
     “We depend on farmworkers every day to help put the food we eat on America’s dinner tables – and they deserve fair, equitable working standards with strong health and safety protections,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.
     “With these updates we can protect workers, while at the same time preserve the strong traditions of our family farms and ensure the continued growth of our agricultural economy,” she said.
     The changes to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard are intended to reduce the risk of injury and illnesses from contact with pesticides on farms and in forests, nurseries and greenhouses, according to the EPA. They will apply in all states, but farm owners and their immediate families are exempt from the rules.
     Among the new requirements, children under 18 are prohibited from handling or working with pesticides, and training on pesticide protections will be required annually instead of once every five years.
     Norma Flores Lopez, former farmworker and member of the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, said that the annual training ensures that as many farmworkers as possible are being reached.
     “We’re making sure that farmworkers are able to get the most up-to-date information and that they are able to keep themselves safe and their families safe as well,” said Lopez, whose parents still work in the fields.
     Farms will also be required to post no-entry signs when the most toxic pesticides are applied. Buffer zones of up to 100 feet surrounding pesticide application equipment will protect workers and others from exposure to overspray, the EPA said.
     Between 1,800 and 3,000 cases of pesticide exposure are reported each year at farms, nurseries and other agricultural operations covered by the current standards. The agency said that fewer of these incidents will mean healthier workers and fewer lost wages, medical bills and work absences.
     U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said that workplace illness and injury “contribute greatly to economic inequality, and can have a devastating impact on workers and their families.”
     “By promoting workplace safety, these provisions will enhance economic security for people struggling to make ends meet and keep more Americans on the job raising the crops that feed the world, and we are proud to support the EPA in this effort,” Perez said.
     The changes will also provide whistleblower protections – including for farmworkers who are in the United States illegally – and expand record-keeping requirements to improve state enforcement and follow up on violations.
     The new rules take effect 14 months after they are published in the Federal Register, which the EPA said should happen within the next 60 days.

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