2012 Worker Protection
The Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection protects employees on farms, in 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.
A new WPS program specialist was hired in early 2012.
Wisconsin implements WPS through education 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 monitors for and ensures compliance. WPS is a relatively small inspection program in Wisconsin. To gain an accurate as possible picture of WPS compliance the program alternates inspection years between food and non-food related establishments. Inspections in 2012 focused on the food sector, such as apple orchards, vineyards, cranberry marshes or fruit or vegetable producers. In contrast, 2011 focused on non-food production operations such as nurseries and greenhouses.
Many of the commodities (both food and non-food) have the support of a professional organization that 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 2012, the WPS program continued its efforts to work with employers of agricultural workers.
The new program specialist worked with the public information officer and graphic designer to create a new Worker Protection display. The display was used at the Turf and Landscape field day in July as well as the Nursery Grower field day that same month. In August, the display was used at the Christmas Tree Grower field day. Fact sheets, How to Comply manuals and other program information was made available to field day attendees. The program specialist also created a DVD of the WPS training videos for employers to utilize.
A short informational video on Worker Protection was created and posted on the department website in October 2012.
The video provides a brief overview of the worker protection program, who must comply and the four major components of the rule. The video was one of a series of videos created for different programs within the agrichemical management bureau.
In 2012, for the federal fiscal year (Oct 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2012), staff conducted inspections at 28 operations. There were 22 Tier 1 inspections that took place within the Restricted Entry Interval (REI) or within 30 days of the end of the REI and 6 Tier 2 inspections. Tier 2 inspections are beyond the 30 day interval or the operation has a family exemption. The inspectors found 56 specific violations. Some operations had multiple counts of a violation so totaling all counts results in 70 total violations. There were four warning notices issued, six verbal warnings and five instances of compliance assistance. Report of violations will be given to EESs in Jan/Feb. 2013. A general failure to comply with WPS is the most common violation (21 counts across 13 inspections) followed by no specific application information at the central posting area (12 counts across 10 inspections.) The other top violations were failure to train workers, and no pesticide safety information in the central posting area. No worker protection inspections were elevated to a compliance case. Enforcement staff also followed-up with operations that received warning notices the previous year. In 2011, six warning notices were issued. All were in compliance at subsequent inspections.
Chart 1 shows the breakdown of the types of operations inspected for WPS.
Direction for the Coming year
The program continues to work with field staff and other pesticide specialists on the effects of changes that soil fumigant rules have on worker protection. The Phase 2 changes in product labels were delayed until 2013.
The department continues to monitor US EPA’s potential revision to the WPS and its impacts on Wisconsin producers. When and if the revisions take place, they will have a significant impact on program activities in the coming year.
The program specialist has had some initial discussions with the University of Wisconsin Pesticide Applicator Training program to explore the possibility of creating a Wisconsin Train the Trainer program for worker protection. Currently one does not exist.
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