EPA Proposes Changes to Agricultural Worker Protection Standard
EPA has announced proposed changes to the application exclusion zone requirements of its agricultural worker protection standard, which was most recently revised in 2015. The requirements related to application exclusion zones, or AEZs, are intended to reduce the number of incidents where workers or others are exposed to pesticides during agricultural pesticide applications. EPA is proposing to revise the provision requiring employers to suspend a pesticide application if workers or others are in the AEZ. As currently described in the standard, the AEZ can extend beyond the boundaries of agricultural establishments. EPA’s proposal is to limit the AEZ so that it is applicable and enforceable only on a farm owner’s property. The agency notes that bystanders who are not on farm property “would still be protected from pesticide applications thanks to the existing ‘do not contact’ requirement that prohibits [pesticide] use in a manner that would contact unprotected individuals.” EPA also proposes to exempt immediate family members of farm owners from all aspects of the AEZ requirement. “The targeted updates would improve enforceability for state regulators and reduce regulatory burdens for farmers,” EPA states on its website. “It would also maintain public health protections for farm workers and other individuals near agricultural establishments that could be exposed to agricultural pesticide applications.” The 2015 revision of the standard requires employers to keep workers and others out of certain areas around pesticide application equipment during ongoing applications. Employers are also currently required to suspend a pesticide application if workers or others are in the AEZ. EPA is accepting comments on its proposed changes until Jan. 30, 2020. Further information is available in the Federal Register and on an agency web page, which focuses on AEZ requirements in the worker protection standard.