The Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection protects employees on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses who are at greatest risk from occupational exposure to agricultural pesticides by enforcing a regulation known as the federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS). Developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and adopted into ch. ATCP 29, Wis. Adm. Code, WPS requires employers to protect their workers and handlers who apply pesticides or work in pesticide treated areas. Employers must provide employees with information on pesticide application locations, entry restrictions, pesticide safety training, personal protective equipment, decontamination supplies, and emergency medical information.
WPS is implemented in Wisconsin through two mutually supportive fronts: prevention and enforcement.
Based on an evaluation of industry practices and previous inspection findings, the WPS program sets an annual plan to conduct outreach, provide individual and industry-wide assistance and continues to monitor for and ensure compliance. WPS is a relatively small inspection program. To obtain as accurate as possible picture of WPS compliance and use that data to direct future activities, the program alternates inspection years between food and non-food related establishments. Inspections in 2010 concentrated on food production establishments, while 2011 inspections focused on the non-food sector, like sod and Christmas tree production.
The vegetable, fruit and fresh market growers, the relatively new vineyard industry, Christmas tree producers, nurseries and greenhouses have professional organizations which can provide members with WPS information. However, not all producers choose to be members, and some smaller, more independent enterprises may not have access to pesticide safety updates.
In 2011, the WPS program increased its efforts to work with employers of agricultural workers. By collaborating with industry, the department can deliver formal training to the state’s producer associations, meet with individual producers on request and provide tools that meet their needs before violations occur. Prevention is better for businesses in terms of less down time, no fines and penalties, and is ultimately better for the health and safety of the people they employ. The program specialist conducted WPS training for the Wisconsin Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Grape Growers Association and Wisconsin cabbage growers. In addition, a pre-season article on WPS was published in the industry magazine, Green Side Up targeted toward the nursery and greenhouse industry.
Industry and the University of Wisconsin West Madison Research Station’s assistant superintendent works with the WPS program, covering emerging production and research issues so the department can tailor information to handle specific challenges, such as unexpected pest emergence, ephemeral labor needs and availability or lack of trainers for specialized workers.
In 2011, the program inspection goal was 37 inspections with 22 of those inspections required for our federal contract commitment. The program conducted a total of 25 inspections and the program’s federal inspection commitments were met by September 30, 2011. Sites inspected were mostly non-food production such as greenhouses and nurseries. Of the 25 inspections, 16 were considered Tier 1 inspections meaning the inspection took place within the Restricted Entry Interval (REI) or 30 days beyond the REI – the higher risk timeframe when pesticide residues are present.
Of the inspected operations, 8 received written warnings, 11 received verbal warnings while 6 had no violations. None of the inspections were escalated to orders, further investigation or forfeitures. The most common violations were:
- Lack of application information at the central posting area
- Failure to provide pesticide safety training to workers
- Failure to provide pesticide safety training to handlers
A chart shows the breakdown of the type of operations inspected for WPS.
Direction for the Coming year
The program continues to monitor changes to soil fumigant labels and is working to assimilate any new impact to the WPS program. However, the EPA delayed implementation of some of the label requirements until 2012.
The department continues to monitor US EPA’s impending revision to the WPS and its impacts on Wisconsin producers. If the revisions take place, this will have a significant impact on program activities in the coming year.
A new program manager was hired in early 2012. The inspection form will be revised and inspection staff have requested refresher training on the program.
Back to ACM Annual Report homepage.