What are the occupational health and safety risks of working around pesticides?
Pesticides are commonly used in agriculture to protect crops from insects, diseases, and weeds. Because chemical pesticides are toxic to the target pest, they can also be harmful to human health and/or the environment.
While most farmworkers do not handle pesticides, they are still exposed to pesticide residue at work. Pesticide residues are tiny particles of the pesticide that remain on the soil and plants and can be absorbed into the body through the skin, eyes, mouth, and nose. Over time, pesticide residues can build up in the body and affect human health.
Workers who apply pesticides are required to take special pesticide handler training. It is the employer’s responsibility to provide the required training to farmworkers and pesticide handlers to reduce their risk of illness and injury.
How can employers reduce the risk of pesticide exposure and illness and what are workers’ rights?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) require employers to comply with the federal Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS), which aims to reduce the risk of pesticide poisoning and injury among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.
The objective of the training is to provide the knowledge workers need to comply with the administrative procedures designed to protect them:
- Inform: Notify farmworkers about pesticides used in the workplace and provide access to labels and safety data sheets. Notify workers about areas treated with pesticides and the “restricted entry interval”. Instruct handlers to post and remove warning signs in treated areas as required by the label.
- Protect: Keep farmworkers out of treated areas and restricted entry areas, and away from application equipment and pesticide storage areas. Monitor handlers using pesticides. Provide adequate training and personal protective equipment for early entry workers.
- Mitigate: Notify handlers and farmworkers about the location of and how to use decontamination supplies, emergency procedures, and the location of medical facilities in case of emergency.
What topics are covered in the WCAHS Pesticide Safety training?
Training for Growers
WCAHS conducts pesticide trainings to assist growers with remaining compliant with the federal standard. This course meets the requirements of the Worker Protection Standard outlined above.
Training for Promotores/Farmworkers
WCAHS provides trainings for promotores/community leaders and farmworkers, which include information to increase awareness about what pesticides are, workers’ rights, and how to reduce health risks.
Training for Trainers
WCAHS partners with UC Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) to offer up-to-date instructor training programs that are approved and partly funded by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).
Participants who complete this training are qualified to provide pesticide safety training to farmworkers and pesticide handlers, as required by California state regulations and the revised federal WPS.