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EPA to publish enhanced pesticide safety training materials, ending delay

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Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency on June 14 announced its intent to publish a Federal Register notice establishing the availability of expanded pesticide safety training materials, in accordance with 2015 revisions to the federal Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.

The materials are intended to help employers protect farmworkers, pesticide handlers and their families from pesticide exposure, which has been linked to cancer, Parkinson’s disease and asthma, EPA notes. Employers are required to implement the materials – available on the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative website – within 180 days of the notice’s publication in the Federal Register.

According to the PERC website, EPA-approved training materials will carry an EPA approval number similar to “Approval # EPA WPS TTT W/H 00026.” Training guidelines:

  • Training must be delivered in a manner that can be understood, in a location relatively free from distractions.
  • When training workers or handlers, the trainer must remain present at all times to be available to answer questions, even when showing a video.
  • Trainers must be qualified, most often by holding a pesticide applicator’s license or by completing an EPA-approved Train-the-Trainer course.

EPA’s announcement comes nearly six months after the agency published a notice in the Federal Register stating that it was reconsidering various aspects of the 2015 WPS revisions, prompting a further delay for employers to enact the enhanced training.

On May 30, Attorneys General Barbara D. Underwood (New York), Xavier Becerra (California) and Brian E. Frosh (Maryland) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging EPA’s decision to delay the requirement. The lawsuit claims that the Trump administration EPA has blocked improved protections approved by the Obama EPA while violating the judicial review provision of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The attorneys general called EPA’s reversal a necessary action on behalf of worker health.

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has backed down to do what the law requires: implement critical safeguards for agricultural workers,” Becerra said in a June 14 press release. “This is an important victory for some of America’s hardest workers and for the Rule of Law.”

Said Underwood in a separate June 14 press release: “Again and again, the EPA has broken the law – and we’ve fought back and won.”

EPA states that it still plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking this year, in which the agency will seek public comment on proposed revisions to WPS requirements for minimum ages, designated representatives and application inclusion zones. Any potential changes then would be made to training materials. Training requirements remain in effect until further notice, the agency adds.

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