Washington Ag Department Adopts Worker Protection Rules Aligned with EPA's

Before EPA adopted the 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.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has adopted rules updating Worker Protection Standards to correspond to federal regulations. Now that the new rules regarding pesticide use have been signed by Director Derek Sandison, they will take effect Jan. 13, 2018. They align with 2015 EPA changes in federal worker protection requirements covering the use of pesticides, changes that address worker training, information posting, decontamination, and other issues. Some of the EPA changes were scheduled to take effect in 2017, but the federal agency delayed implementation until January 2018.

"The Worker Protection Standards cover a lot of areas," Sandison said. "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 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, according to the Department of Agriculture. Other provisions of the new federal standards that have been incorporated into WSDA's new rules include:

  • Workers and handlers must be trained every year, instead of every five years as previously required. A record of the training must be kept for two years.
  • The type of information and location where it is displayed have been expanded and specified. Safety Data Sheets must be posted along with application and safety info in a spot easily seen by workers and handlers, for instance.
  • 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 ones; each agency's rulemaking process is separate, but state law requires that the two agencies' rules be consistent.

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