The Worker Protection Standard (WPS)
PLEASE NOTE: The WPS rules have been revised and will go into effect January 2, 2017. Until then, you MUST comply with the current regulations. Watch our website for updated information. To view the new regulations, visit EPA's Webpage on the Revised Worker Protection Standard. VAAFM will be providing information via Presentations. If you would like a presentation, please contact Anne Macmillan at VAAFM (802) 828-3479.
Watch the most recent webinar covering some of the important changes to WPS: Revisions to WPS 2016 (approximately 1 hour in length). credit to Colorado State University.
CURRENT REGULATIONS (until January 2, 2017)
Protecting Agricultural Workers and Handlers on Conventional and Organic Farms
The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is an EPA-administered regulation expected to reduce the risk of pesticide poisonings among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers on farms.
The WPS offers protections to approximately 2.5 million agricultural workers (people involved in the production of agricultural plants) and pesticide handlers (people who mix, load, or apply pesticides) who work at over 600,000 agricultural establishments.
These establishments include farms, nurseries, forests, and greenhouses.
The WPS contains requirements for:
pesticide safety training;
notification of pesticide applications;
use of personal protective equipment;
restricted-entry intervals after pesticide application;
and emergency medical assistance.
If you use pesticides in the course of your business as an employer of agricultural workers or pesticide handlers, learn how to comply with the WPS.
You can also use our site to learn more about worker training required in order to comply with WPS.
For Employees — Para empleados
- How to Protect Your Family from Pesticides
- Cómo Proteger a Su Familia de los Pesticidas
- Reconocimiento y Manejo de los Envenenamientos Por Pesticidas, 5th Edición, por la EPA
- Otros Recursos en Español por la EPA
Training is the best way to protect employees
While training for workers and handlers is the law, it is also the best way to ensure that your workers are not exposed to pesticides. Protect yourself by protecting them.
VAAFM offers WPS training! Our trainings provide great advantages to employers:
- Trainings are interactive, with activities, printed materials and videos;
- We provide WPS certification and an EPA verification card valid for 1 (one) year;
- We provide employers with a roster of all employees who have been trained;
- Training is provided in English, Spanish and French.
Call us today at 802-828-3479 or contact us to schedule training. Training is best completed before the growing season and pesticide applications begin (i.e. fall through early spring).
- VAAFM offers EPA approved training materials, posters, videos, checklists, rosters, etc. for free.
Be aware that you must provide any untrained worker with basic pesticide safety information before they do any work in an area that has been treated with pesticides within the last 30 days.
This page contains the following sections:
- Who Must Be Trained?
- How Soon Must I Provide Training?
- Who Can Conduct Training?
- How Should Training Be Conducted?
- Basic Information
- Training for Agricultural Workers
- Training for Handlers
This web site cannot give you all the information you need to comply with the WPS.
who must be trained?
All workers and handlers must be trained before they accumulate more than 5 days of work in an area that has been treated with pesticides within the last 30 days. You are not required to conduct training if the worker or handler:
- Has been trained within the last 5 years and has an EPA verification card, even if he or she has changed employers
- Is currently a certified applicator of restricted-use pesticides
- Is currently trained as a handler who works under the supervision of a certified pesticide applicator
How soon must I provide training? (Top)
There are different requirements for different types of employees.
- Handlers must be trained before they do any kind of handling task.
- Other agricultural workers must be trained before they accumulate more than 5 separate days of work on your establishment in an area that has been treated with pesticides within the last 30 days.
who can conduct training? (Top)
This flow chart shows how certified applicators, EPA Certified Trainers, and people who have completed a train-the-trainer program can train both workers and handlers. In addition, pesticide handlers can train agricultural workers.
How Should training be conducted? (Top)
WPS training in general must include the following elements:
- Written and/or audio-visual materials, like posters and videos.
- An oral or audiovisual (video) presentation.
- Presentation in a manner the trainees understand, using a translator if necessary. Please remember that some employees may not be able to read either English or their native language.
- Responses to trainees' questions.
The content of WPS training materials must be either materials developed by EPA, or equivalent material that contains at least the concepts provided in the sections below.
Basic Information (Top)
You must provide basic pesticide safety information to any untrained worker before they enter an area on your property where pesticides have been applied within the last 30 days. To meet this requirement, you must:
- Provide basic pesticide safety information in a manner that the employees can understand, whether with written materials or oral communication.
- You must be able to verify that you have completed basic safety training.
You must provide workers with at minimum the following information:
- Pesticides may be on or in plants, soil, irrigation water, or drifting from nearby applications.
- To prevent pesticides from entering your body:
- Wash before eating, drinking, using chewing gum or tobacco, or using the toilet.
- Wear work clothing that protects you from pesticide residues.
- After work, wash with soap and water, shampoo hair, and put on clean clothes.
- Wash work clothes separately from other clothes.
- If you come into contact with spilled or sprayed pesticides, wash immediately with nearest clean water. Shower and change into clean clothes as soon as possible.
- You will receive more training within 5 days.
Training for Agricultural workers (Top)
Training for agricultural workers is required before they accumulat e more than 5 days separate entry into treated areas where a pesticide has been applied in the last 30 days. You must present WPS training in a manner that the worker can understand.
Training for workers must include at least the following information:
- Where and in what form pesticides may be encountered during work activities.
- Hazards of pesticides resulting from exposure, including acute effects, chronic effects, delayed effects, and sensitization.
- Routes pesticides take to enter the body.
- Signs and symptoms of common types of pesticide poisoning.
- Emergency first aid for pesticide injuries or poisonings.
- How to obtain emergency medical care.
- Routine and emergency decontamination procedures, including emergency eye-flushing techniques.
- Hazards from chemigation and drift.
- Hazards of pesticide residues on clothing.
- Warnings about taking pesticides or pesticide containers home.
An explanation of the WPS requirements to protect workers, including:
- Application and entry restrictions
- Design of the warning sign
- Posting of warning signs
- Oral warnings
- Availability of specific information about applications
- Protection against retaliatory acts
Training for pesticide handlers (Top)
Handlers must be trained before they do any type of handling work. In addition to the requirements for worker training, handler training must include at minimum the following concepts:
- Format and meaning of information on pesticide labels and labeling, including precautionary statements about human health hazards.
- Need for and appropriate use of personal protective equipment.
- Prevention, recognition, and first aid for heat-related illnesses.
- Safety requirements for handling, transporting, storing, and disposing of pesticides, including general procedures for spill cleanup.
- Environmental concerns such as drift, runoff, and wildlife hazards.
An explanation of WPS requirements that handler employers must follow for the protection of handlers and others, including:
- the prohibition against applying pesticides in a way that could cause contact with workers or other people,
- the requirement to use PPE,
- the provisions for training and decontamination,
- and the protection against retaliatory acts.
There are further requirements for employers of pesticide handlers other than training. Find them on our How to Comply page. (BELOW!)
How to Comply
Worker Protection is your responsibility
Failure to comply with the Worker Protection Standard can result in heavy fines up to $25,000 per violation and 1 year in prison. Knowingly violating WPS can result in even greater fines and misdemeanor charges. It is your responsibility to comply with the letter of the law.
This page contains the following sections:
- Who Must Comply;
- Information about pesticide safety you must supply to workers;
- Protection from pesticide exposure you must supply to workers;
- Mitigation of pesticide exposure you must supply to workers.
Who Must Comply?
Most people who employ others to do agricultural work must comply with the WPS. Even if only you and your family members work at your establishment, you are a WPS employer.
If you own or manage any of the following types of businesses and use pesticides for the production of agricultural plants, you must comply with the WPS:
If you hire workers or contract with employers to supply workers to do tasks at any of the businesses listed above, you must comply with the WPS.
If you operate a business in which you or the people you employ apply pesticides that are used in the production of agricultural plants in any of the businesses listed above, you must comply with the WPS.
If you operate a business in which you or the people you employ act as crop consultants or crop scouts, meaning that you assess pest numbers or damage, pesticide distribution, or the status, condition, or requirements of agricultural plants, you must comply with the WPS.
The best way to protect your workers and to decrease your liability is to ensure that workers are well-informed about how to work safely with pesticides. WPS requires that you provide the following to your workers:
- Pesticide safety training. You must provide in-depth pesticide safety training for both pesticide handlers and agricultural workers. EPA has specific requirements for the content of this training. Use our WPS training page to learn more.
- Pesticide safety poster. You must display a pesticide safety poster at a central location. This poster must have been developed by the EPA like the one at right, or must contain specific information listed in the How to Comply Manual.
Access to labeling information. Pesticide handlers must have access to the pesticide label during handling tasks. If handlers or workers cannot read the label, you must inform them, in a manner they can understand, of:
- the signal word,
- human hazard statements and precautions,
- PPE requirements,
- first aid instructions,
- environmental precautions, and
- any additional precautions about the handling tasks to be performed.
Access to application information. At a central location, you must provide information about pesticide applications that have been made on the establishment. This information must include:
- Location and description of the treated area
- Product name
- EPA registration number
- Active ingredients of the pesticide
- Time and date of application
- REI for the pesticide
In order to ensure that your employees are protected from pesticide exposure, the WPS requires employers to do the following:
- Prohibit handlers from applying pesticides in ways that could expose other workers. Handler employers and pesticide handlers share the responsibility of ensuring that pesticides do not contact anyone except appropriately trained and equipped handlers, either directly or through drift.
- Exclude workers from areas being treated with pesticides. Everyone, except properly trained handlers, must be kept out of areas being treated with pesticides. In nurseries and greenhouses, different "keep out zones" apply to different pesticides. Specific instructions can be found in the How to Comply Manual.
Exclude workers from areas under an REI.
- Notify workers and handlers about treated areas so they can avoid exposure. You must provide notification according to the pesticide label. Some labels specify that you provide notification both orally and via posted signs. In greenhouses, you must post all treated areas; on farms, forests, and nurseries, you must post signs at the usual entrance to the treated area. Signs must be understandable to employees; post a sign that uses the primary language of your employees.
Protect handlers during handling tasks. This requirement includes:
- Monitoring. Handlers must be monitored when handling pesticides with skull and crossbones like the one to the right. At least once every 2 hours, someone must check - by sight or voice - that a person handling a Danger-Poison pesticide is OK. When a handler is using fumigants in a greenhouse, someone trained as a handler must maintain constant visual or voice contact with the handler, and must have the proper PPE at hand to be able to enter the treatment area.
- Ensuring correct use of PPE. You must provide the correct, functional PPE required by the pesticide label and must ensure that the handler wears the PPE correctly and for the duration of the entire task. For example, if the label requires a respirator, ensure that it fits the handler's face snugly.
It is always possible for pesticide exposure to occur, even if you provide all the correct information and protection to your employees. To mitigate those risks, the WPS requires the following:
- Decontamination supplies. You must provide workers and handlers with an ample supply of soap, water, and clean towels for both routine washing and emergency decontamination. For handlers, you must provide enough water to wash the entire body (at least 3 gallons) and a clean set of clothes.
Emergency assistance. If a worker or handler who you currently employ or have previously employed has been injured or poisoned by a pesticide used on the establishment, you must:
- Provide transportation to an emergency medical facility
- Provide information about the pesticide either to the worker or to medical personnel. The label is the most convenient form of this information. In addition, you must provide the circumstances of the exposure.