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Pesticide safety training materials: EPA announcement of availability will reduce worker injury, illness risk, OIG says

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Washington — By publishing the availability of expanded pesticide safety training materials after previously resisting the move, the Environmental Protection Agency will reduce risks of injury and illness among employers, farmworkers, pesticide handlers and their families, the EPA Office of Inspector General asserts in an audit report released Aug. 30.

Acting in accordance with 2015 revisions to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, EPA announced the availability of the materials in a June 22 Federal Register notice. Developed in tandem with the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative, the materials are intended to help mitigate pesticide exposure, which has been linked to cancer, Parkinson’s disease and asthma, according to EPA.

Employers are required to implement the materials – available on the PERC website – by Dec. 19. PERC states that 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 be present at all times 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 recent actions marked a reversal of course from December, when the agency stated its intent to reconsider various aspects of the WPS revisions, further delaying employer enactment of the training.

In May, however, attorneys general from New York, California and 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 and violated the judicial review provision of the Administrative Procedure Act.

EPA still is considering revisions to WPS requirements for minimum ages, designated representatives and application inclusion zones, the Federal Register notice states. Training materials would be amended should the agency implement changes via a final rule.

OIG offers no recommendations because EPA revised its position during the course of the audit.

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