WASHINGTON, DC -- The COVID-19 pandemic is making just about every aspect of life that much more difficult and fulfilling Pesticide Safety Training requirements under these conditions is not different. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released welcome guidance on existing flexibilities in the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) available to employers of agriculture workers, or those who assist in the growing or harvesting of plants, and pesticide handlers, or those who mix, clean, or assist with the application of pesticides.
The Agricultural WPS requires employers to certify that their employees have obtained pesticide safety training within the last 12 months before allowing them to work in areas where pesticides are being used. This ensures that agricultural workers and pesticide handlers are up to date on the latest safety training regarding pesticides.
The EPA continues to encourage in-person pesticide safety training if workplace protections to maintain a healthy work environment can be implemented. Alternative options to traditional training include conducting training outside or conducting training in smaller groups. However, amid COVID-19, the EPA has recognized that it may not be feasible to have this training face-to-face, so the guidance outlines that training may be conducted virtually. Employers are still responsible for ensuring that all requirements of the WPS are met regardless of how the training is conducted. To certify all standards are met, employers must document completion of training under a qualified trainer. This is as simple as providing a document to employees with the employer and trainer’s name, the trainer’s certification, date of the training and materials presented.
“This is welcomed and timely guidance for those of us faced with obstacles due to the coronavirus pandemic,” said David Petter, an Arkansas rice farmer and chair of the USA Rice Regulatory Affairs and Food Safety Committee. “These flexibilities will help farmers, millers, and other employers comply with Worker Protection Standards so we can continue to focus on producing a safe and nutritious product.”
For more information about this guidance, check the USA Rice COVID-19 resources page here.