By enforcing the federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the Department of Agriculture, Trade and 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, the 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, and emergency medical information and must also provide personal protective equipment and decontamination supplies.
Wisconsin implements the 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 2014 focused on the food production sector such as apple orchards, vineyards, cranberry marshes or fruit or vegetable farms. In 2013, inspections focused on non-food production such as Christmas trees, greenhouses and plant nurseries. In 2014 there also were some non-food operations inspected either as a 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. The federal WPS program was established in the early 1990s so there is a new generation of farmers who may not be familiar with WPS and need to be introduced to the program or need to have the program requirements reinforced.
The program specialist connected with the Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker (MSFW) program through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The MSFW inspects migrant labor camps and checks compliance with farm labor contracts. Another group of DWD outreach specialists works closely with job centers throughout the state where they interact with migrants, seasonal farm workers and other non-English speaking workers.
In 2014, the WPS program continued its efforts to work with employers of agricultural workers. An investigator and program specialist presented information on WPS and pesticide regulations at a spring workshop for hop growers. This is an emerging industry in Wisconsin with many interested growers and many have a limited agricultural background. Approximately 85 were in attendance.
A special train-the-trainer workshop was presented at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable annual conference in January. The workshop was presented by the director of the pesticide applicator training program (PAT) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the WPS program specialist. Approximately 25 growers were trained and were given certificates that recognized them as qualified trainers for worker protection. We’re finding a growing need for this type of training. It appears that more growers are not using restricted use pesticides, so they have no need for pesticide certification. However, according to state and federal requirements, they are not considered a qualified WPS trainer. Wisconsin does not routinely offer training workshops; this was done at the request of industry and was a first of its kind. Growers who aren’t certified or those who don’t have certified applicators or trained pesticide handlers, are encouraged to take advantage of the on-line train-the-trainer course offered by Iowa State University.
For the federal fiscal year 2014 (Oct 1, 2013-Sept. 30, 2014), staff conducted inspections at 21 operations. There were 19 Tier 1 inspections that took place within the restricted entry interval (REI) or within 30 days of the end of the REI, and 2 Tier 2 inspections. Tier 2 inspections are beyond the 30-day interval or the operation has a family exemption. The number of inspections for FY14 are down by 10 compared to 2013. The reason for the decline is that we had one investigator retire and another received a promotion to supervisor before their worker protection inspections were completed.
For 2014, the investigators found 13 different categories of violations or 34 total violations across all establishments inspected. This was a decrease from 84 total violations in 2013. While there were fewer overall inspections, the average number of violations per inspection was also down. (See Table 1 below.) There were 8 warning notices issued and 10 verbal warnings; one operation had both a verbal warning and written warning. There were 2 inspected establishments with no violations. One WPS inspection will be elevated to a compliance case in 2015.
Federal fiscal 2013 - (10/1/2012-9/30/2013)
Federal Fiscal 2014 - (10/1/13-9/30/14)
|Operations with no violations||13||2|
|Violations per operation||4.6||1.8|
In 2013, staff began using a more detailed inspection form. Unfortunately, our case tracking database was not able to be updated to reflect the finer detail. For example, a decontamination site failing to provide a change of clothes would be a violation of 40 CFR 170.250(b)(4). However, within the compliance database, it could only be recorded as a violation of 40 CFR 170.250 which is a failure to provide a decontamination site, which is not exactly the same issue. For 2014, the program specialist reviewed case violations in more detail. The violations are listed according to federal code.
Most common 40 CFR violations were:
5 – 170.130(a)(3), pesticide safety training not provided to workers
5 – 170.122, no specific application information at central area
5 – 170.122(c)(2), pesticide application information missing active ingredient
4 – 170.122(c)(3), pesticide application information missing start and stop time
3 – 170.250(b)(4), decontamination area for handlers missing a change of clothes
3 – 170.230(a), handlers received no safety training
2 – 130 (d)(2), unqualified trainer for workers
2 - 170.135, no WPS safety poster
1 – 170.130(e), no pesticide training records maintained
1 – 170.120(c)(6)(ii), worker protection warning signs not removed after 3 days after REI ends
1 – 170.150 (b)(3) decontamination area for handlers (spray rig) missing soap and towels
1 – 170.135 (c), central posting area missing hospital address
1 – 170.122(a)(c), no emergency medical information provided
Enforcement staff also followed-up with operations that received warning notices the previous year. In 2013, 6 warning notices were issued. All operations were in compliance at the follow-up in 2014.
Chart 1 shows the breakdown of the types of operations inspected for WPS in 2014.
WPS Rule Revision
In February, 2014, EPA offered a proposed rule for the revision of the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard. The WPS program specialist and agrichemical management bureau director prepared nine pages of comments on the rule proposal. The comments were mostly supportive but included some recommendations to revise certain aspects of the rule proposal. The final rule should be published sometime in 2015.
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 2014 there were no soil fumigation inspections that also involved a WPS inspection.
The program specialist will continue to meet and share information with farm worker groups. Migrant health care providers in Wisconsin are another group that the program specialist will reach out to in the coming year.
The program will continue to provide information to industry groups through speaking engagements, articles and conferences.
In anticipation of the publication of the final WPS rule, a workgroup will be established to address the needs of industry and investigators including outreach, inspection form revision, and training. We expect that this major rule revision will be phased in for up to 18-24 months so outreach to industry and training of our own field staff will be a major program activity over the next year or two.
For more information about any of the bureau programs you may email the department.
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