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Environmental Protection Agency announces final revisions to the Worker Protection Standard (40 CFR 170)

Contributed by Micah Raub, WPS Coordinator, Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Office of Pesticide Services

On Monday, September 28, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final revisions to 40 CFR Part 170.  The federal regulation is also referred to as the Worker Protection Standard (WPS).  WPS is referenced on many agricultural pesticides, specifically those used in crop production agriculture.  EPA, state and tribal regulatory agencies and cooperative extension programs will be working together to provide outreach and education related to the revisions as they are implemented over the next two years.  Growers are encouraged to stop at WPS outreach exhibits at grower events and to attend WPS presentations at growers meetings to learn more about the revisions.  It is important to note that the current WPS regulations will remain in effect until 14 months after the revised regulations are published in the Federal Register. 

EPA published the following information in a fact sheet titled “Changes to EPA’s Farm Worker Protection Standard” (Published September 28, 2015). 

The Environmental Protection Agency has revised the 1992 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard regulation to increase protection from pesticide exposure for the nation’s two million agricultural workers and their families. These changes will afford farmworkers similar health protections that are already afforded to workers in other industries while taking into account the unique working environment of many agricultural jobs.

The regulation seeks to protect and reduce the risks of injury or illness resulting from agricultural workers’ (those who perform hand-labor tasks in pesticide-treated crops, such as harvesting, thinning, pruning) and pesticide handlers’ (those who mix, load and apply pesticides) use and contact with pesticides on farms, forests, nurseries and greenhouses. The regulation does not cover persons working with livestock.

Major changes to the regulation:

• Annual mandatory training to inform farmworkers on the required protections. This increases the likelihood that protections will be followed. Currently, training is only once every 5 years.

• Expanded training includes instructions to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing and other safety topics.

• First-time ever minimum age requirement: Children under 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides.

• Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides. The signs prohibit entry into pesticide-treated fields until residues decline to a safe level.

• New no-entry application-exclusion zones up to 100 feet surrounding pesticide application equipment will protect workers and others from exposure to pesticide overspray.

• Requirement to provide more than one way for farmworkers and their representatives to gain access to pesticide application information and safety data sheets – centrally-posted, or by requesting records.

• Mandatory record-keeping to improve states’ ability to follow up on pesticide violations and enforce compliance. Records of application-specific pesticide information, as well as farmworker training, must be kept for two years.

• Anti-retaliation provisions are comparable to Department of Labor’s (DOL’s).

• Changes in personal protective equipment will be consistent with the DOL’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards for ensuring respirators are effective, including fit test, medical evaluation and training.

• Specific amounts of water to be used for routine washing, emergency eye flushing and other decontamination, including eye wash systems for handlers at pesticide mixing/loading sites.

• Continue the exemption for farm owners and their immediate family with an expanded definition of immediate family.

Additional information on the rule is available at:


Horticulture Department to become new School

Dear alumni and friends of the Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech 
 3/11/2015 - Our current department structure will be dissolved next summer and Horticulture will live as an essential component of the new school and not a stand-alone department. As such, our department will join the Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences and the Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science departments to form the new school.

–The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is in the process of forming a School of Plant and Environmental Sciences as put forward in the university’s  strategic plan (A Plan for a New Horizon 2013-2018 http://www.president.vt.edu/strategic-plan/2012-plan/2012-strategic-plan.pdf  ). 

The exact structure of the new school is yet to be determined  but I suspect Horticulture will be an official “section”. 

We will retain our majors, so students will still graduate with an Environmental Horticulture or a Landscape Contracting major.  

This kind of streamlining of academic units has been going on across many universities. For example, Horticulture departments have been recently  restructured at Cornell and Penn State Universities and not too long ago at UC Davis and Ohio State Universities. The restructuring is for strategic reasons, not to save money. Our department is currently stronger than ever. Despite recent eroding enrollment for undergraduates, our curriculum is very good and our graduates consistently perform at a high level. Our research, extension, and graduate programs are also very good. Besides, allowing for more efficient programming, the new structure will offer a stronger face to both the academic world and to funding agencies.

I am more than a bit sad that 122 years of a Horticulture department at VT will be soon be ending, but I am optimistic that Horticulture will flourish in the new school.

 – Best Regards, Roger

J. Roger Harris
Professor and Head
VT Department of Horticulture
490 West Campus Drive
301 Saunders Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061

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