Agency’s proposals exceed EPA requirements
Salem - The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) has extended the public comment period until Jan. 31 on rules to protect farmworkers and their families from pesticide drift.
The rules are part of the agency’s updates to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Worker Protection Standard. At issue is the need to protect workers and their families living on farms from the risk of pesticide spray illegally drifting to their homes when the wind picks up.
The EPA’s rule requires workers to stay at least 100 feet away from a pesticide applicator while spraying is happening. Oregon OSHA proposes measures that exceed EPA requirements in several ways, while also allowing workers to shelter in place when pesticides that do not present a respiratory hazard are used.
Oregon OSHA’s rule proposals include:
- For pesticides that require applicators to use respirators, evacuation would be required to 150 feet – 50 feet more than the EPA rule.
- The evacuation would last at least 15 minutes after the spray equipment moved on, rather than end immediately, as is the case with the EPA rule.
- For all pesticide applications, the rule would require doors, windows, and air intakes be closed before evacuation or sheltering in place. During evacuation, the EPA rule does not include such requirements.
- The rule would require protection of personal or household items from potential contamination, as well as suitable storage for shoes and boots to prevent the tracking of pesticides into housing. The EPA rule includes no such requirements.
Public comment on the proposed rules was scheduled to end Dec. 15, but has been extended through Jan. 31. To comment:
Department of Consumer and Business Services/Oregon OSHA
350 Winter St. NE
Salem, OR 97301-3882
Meanwhile, Oregon OSHA has appointed a fiscal advisory committee, including both worker and grower representatives, to provide additional analysis as part of the agency’s updates to the Worker Protection Standard.
“As we move forward on this important rule, we remain committed to gathering and considering public input, and conducting a thorough analysis,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “A lot of stakeholders have put a lot of time and hard work into this issue, and we are dedicated to getting it right.”
Oregon OSHA’s rule proposals add protections to the EPA’s Application Exclusion Zone, which requires workers be evacuated to a distance 100 feet from spray equipment until the equipment has moved on. Drift outside a treated area is already illegal. However, it can happen during pesticide application, when droplets or dust move away from the target site.
The EPA rule was designed to cover workers in the fields. It did not address housing located near crop areas. Oregon OSHA’s rule proposals not only beef up protections, but also recognize unique circumstances in Oregon, in which worker housing is frequently next to or surrounded by fields.
Learn more about Oregon’s OSHA’s proposed Worker Protection Standard rules: osha.oregon.gov/rules/making/Pages/proposed.aspx
Learn more about the fiscal advisory committee: osha.oregon.gov/news/notices/Pages/fac-for-wps.aspx