By enforcing a regulation known as the federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS), 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. 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, emergency medical information and provide personal protective equipment and decontamination supplies.
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, provides individual and industry-wide assistance and monitors for and ensures compliance. WPS is a relatively small inspection program in Wisconsin. To gain an accurate picture of WPS compliance, the program alternates inspection years between food and non-food related establishments. Inspections in 2013 focused on the non-food sector such as greenhouses and nurseries. In contrast, 2012 focused on food production operations such as apple orchards, vineyards, cranberry marshes or fruit or vegetable farms. In 2013 there were some food-type operations inspected; either they were re-inspections from the previous year or an inspection opportunity presented itself to the investigator.
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. Therefore outreach to all the industries using different methods such as news articles, releases, websites and presentations, is important.
In 2013, the WPS program continued its efforts to work with employers of agricultural workers. One of the investigators presented to the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers in January. The topic was pesticide regulations and included information on worker protection requirements. The program specialist had a worker protection display with associated information at the Wisconsin Nursery Association field day in August and gave a presentation to the Commercial Flower Growers in September.
In 2013, for the federal fiscal year (Oct 1, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2013), staff conducted inspections at 31 operations. There were 24 Tier 1 inspections that took place within the Restricted Entry Interval (REI) or within 30 days of the end of the REI and 7 Tier 2 inspections. Tier 2 inspections are beyond the 30 day interval or the operation has a family exemption. 2013 was also the first full year of inspections using a revised, more detailed inspection form. The investigators found 18 different categories of violations or 84 total violations across all establishments inspected. This was an increase from 70 total violations in 2012. The increase in the number of different violations is likely because of the new form. There were 6 warning notices issued, 10 verbal warnings and 3 instances of compliance assistance. (One operation had both a verbal warning and written warning.) There were 13 establishments with no violations. A summary of inspections and findings was given to EES staff in November 2013. None of the WPS inspections was elevated to a compliance case.
A general failure to comply with WPS is the most common violation (15 instances) followed by no specific application information at the central posting area (12 instances). The other top violations were violations of other provisions of Wisconsin’s pesticide law (11), followed by failure to train workers (9), no worker training records were maintained and safety and medical information was not displayed in the central location area for 30 days after the application (5 instances of each). Enforcement staff also followed-up with operations that received warning notices the previous year. In 2012, 6 warning notices were issued. All re-inspected operations were in compliance at the follow-up.
Chart 1 shows the breakdown of the types of operations inspected for WPS in 2013.
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. In 2013 there were no soil fumigation inspections that also involved a WPS inspection.
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 began working with the University of Wisconsin Pesticide Applicator Training program to create a Wisconsin Train the Trainer program for worker protection. The plan is to present this workshop in early 2014 to the Wisconsin Apple Growers at their annual conference.
The program specialist will work to engage with farm worker groups and migrant health care providers in Wisconsin.
Outreach opportunities during 2014 will also include a summary of most-common violations as a reminder to the different growers of what inspection staff are seeing on farms, forests, greenhouses and nurseries.
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