Oregon OSHA Adopting Pesticide Rules

The agency will re-convene its Small Agricultural Employer Advisory Committee this year to further review how to best protect farm labor housing occupants from pesticides.

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) recently announced it will adopt most of a set of updated pesticide rules to protect Oregon farmworkers and workers who handle pesticides. Proposed last year, the rules resulted from updates to the EPA Worker Protection Standard, and they affect areas such as training, pesticide labeling, respiratory protection, emergency eyewash requirements, and protecting occupants of farm labor housing when pesticides are sprayed on nearby crops.

Oregon OSHA said it received a significant amount of public comments about its proposal to protect such workers and has decided to launch a new rulemaking early this year to revisit that issue.

The new rules will take effect Jan. 1, 2018, to allow time for the additional rulemaking process and the industry's transition to the new standards. "A lot of stakeholders have put in a lot of time and hard work to get the new Worker Protection Standard right," said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. "We've received a range of public testimony and concerns. While we believe we're nearly there, we do have some more work to do to make sure we get this right."

The agency made changes to reflect the unique circumstances for employers in Oregon and based on public comments, such as streamlining the proposed training requirements for licensed trainers of pesticide handlers. Oregon OSHA will re-convene its Small Agricultural Employer Advisory Committee to further review how to best protect farm labor housing occupants from pesticides. The committee includes representatives of labor, employers, grower organizations, and government and nonprofit agencies; the agency will ask the committee to focus on the specific issues involving the EPA-designated Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ). The zone surrounds and moves with certain pesticide-spray equipment during applications and must be free of all people other than appropriately trained and equipped pesticide handlers.

Oregon OSHA proposed a compliance alternative to EPA's requirement that everyone be evacuated from the zone during outdoor pesticide applications. That alternative is commonly known as "shelter in place," and it would allow occupants of protected spaces – including fully-enclosed housing – to remain indoors as protection from the potential hazard of spray drift as the zone created by pesticide-spray equipment in a nearby crop area passes by. Oregon OSHA wants the advisory committee to consider whether there are ways to strengthen the shelter in place alternative and also the underlying exclusion zone requirement.

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