Salem, OR — The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) will adopt most of a set of updated pesticide rules, to protect Oregon farm workers and those who handle pesticides.
The rules, proposed in 2016, are a result of updates to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Worker Protection Standard. The updated standards affect areas such as training, pesticide labeling, and respiratory and emergency eye-washing requirements.
Another area addressed in the rules is protecting occupants of farm labor housing when pesticides are sprayed on nearby crops. Oregon OSHA received a significant amount of public comment about its proposal to protect these workers, and, as a result, it will kick off a new rulemaking early this year to revisit that issue.
The rules will take effect Jan. 1, 2018, to allow time for the additional rulemaking process and transition to the new standards.
“A lot of stakeholders have put in a lot of time and hard work to get the new Worker Protection Standard right,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. “We’ve received a range of public testimony and concerns. While we believe we’re nearly there, we do have some more work to do to make sure we get this right.”
In adopting most of the rule updates, Oregon OSHA is moving forward with several changes it introduced to reflect the unique circumstances for employers in Oregon, as well as embracing changes initiated by the EPA. It also made some adjustments based on public comments. For example, it streamlined the proposed training requirements for licensed trainers of pesticide handlers, based on feedback from the industry.
Oregon OSHA will re-convene the Small Agricultural Employer Advisory Committee to further review how to best protect farm labor housing occupants from pesticides. The committee includes representatives of labor, employers, grower organizations, and government and nonprofit agencies.
Oregon OSHA will ask the committee to focus on the specific issues involving the EPA-designated Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ). The zone surrounds and moves with certain pesticide-spray equipment during applications and must be free of all people other than appropriately trained and equipped pesticide handlers.
Oregon OSHA proposed a compliance alternative to the EPA’s requirement that everyone be evacuated from the zone during outdoor pesticide applications. That alternative is commonly known as “shelter in place.” It would allow occupants of protected spaces – including fully-enclosed housing – to remain indoors as protection from the potential hazard of spray drift as the zone created by pesticide-spray equipment in a nearby crop area passes by. Oregon OSHA would like the advisory committee to consider whether there are ways to strengthen not only the shelter in place alternative, but also the underlying exclusion zone requirement.
Oregon OSHA will ask the advisory committee to work with the agency on new draft language so the agency can re-propose the rule in time for it to take effect with the other revised sections of the WPS on Jan. 1, 2018. For more information about the advisory committee is on our advisory committee page.
For more information about WPS and related rules, visit our Worker protection standard topic page.