Complying with the Revised Worker Protection Standard (WPS)

In 2015, EPA revised the Agricultural WPS originally enacted in 1992 to increase protections and reduce risks for agricultural employees and their families exposed to pesticides on farms, in forests, greenhouses and nurseries. This brief introduction will help determine if you fall under the revised WPS guidelines. Additional resources and the complete guide HOW TO COMPLY WITH THE 2015 REVISED WORKER PROTECTION STANDARD FOR AGRICULTURAL PESTICIDES are accessible via the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC) website,

Do you have responsibilities under EPA’s Worker Protection Standard (WPS)? The answer is YES if you are an agricultural employer, defined in the WPS as any person who is an owner of, or is responsible for the management or condition of an agricultural establishment, and who employs any worker or handler.

What is an agricultural establishment? An agricultural establishment is involved in growing, maintaining or producing agricultural plants (including fruits and vegetables; flowering and foliage plants and trees; seedlings and transplants) for commercial and/or research or experimental purposes. Commercial production includes production of plants for sale, trade or in-house use on the establishment or another facility. Nurseries, garden centers and similar operations where nursery and ornamental bedding plants are maintained for wholesale or retail sale are considered agricultural establishments for the purposes of the WPS and are covered by the rule if they use WPS-labeled pesticide products.

How do you know if a pesticide invokes WPS? The Agricultural Use Requirements box located on the pesticide label indicates that the product falls under WPS guidelines.

Figure 1. The Agricultural Use Requirements box on a pesticide label invokes WPS requirements.

Do you employ workers or handlers?

A worker is anyone who is employed (including self-employed) in exchange for a salary/wages/other monetary compensation, and doing tasks directly related to the production of agricultural plants on an agricultural establishment (i.e., harvesting, weeding, carrying nursery stock, repotting plants, pruning or watering).

A handler is anyone who is employed (including self-employed) in exchange for salary/wages/ monetary compensation by an agricultural establishment or a commercial pesticide handling establishment that uses pesticides in the production of agricultural plants, and doing any of the following tasks:

    • Mixing, loading, transferring, applying or disposing of pesticides,
    • Handling opened containers of pesticides; emptying, triple-rinsing, or cleaning pesticide containers according to pesticide product labeling instructions; or disposing of pesticide containers that have not been cleaned,
    • Acting as a flagger,
    • Cleaning, adjusting, handling or repairing the parts of mixing, loading, or application equipment that may contain pesticide residues,
    • Assisting with the application of pesticides, including incorporating the pesticide into the soil after the application has occurred, or dipping plant cuttings in rooting hormones that are registered pesticides,
    • Entering a greenhouse or other enclosed space after application and before the inhalation exposure level listed on the pesticide product labeling has been reached or any ventilation criteria established by WPS (Chapter 3, Table 1. Entry Restrictions During Enclosed Space Production Pesticide Applications) or on the pesticide product labeling has been met to:
      • Operate ventilation equipment,
      • Adjust or remove coverings, such as tarps used in fumigation, or
      • Check air pesticide concentration levels
    • Entering a treated area outdoors after application of any soil fumigant to adjust or remove soil coverings, such as tarps, or
    • Performing tasks as a crop advisor during any pesticide application, during any restricted-entry interval, or before any inhalation exposure level listed on the pesticide product labeling has been reached or any ventilation criteria established by WPS (Chapter 3, Table 1. Entry Restrictions During Enclosed Space Production Pesticide Applications) or on the pesticide product labeling has been met.

 Are you exempt from some WPS requirements? The owners of agricultural establishments and their immediate family members must comply with some but not all WPS requirements provided that more than half of the equity in the establishment is owned by one or more members of the same immediate family. The definition of an immediate family member was expanded to include: spouse, parents, stepparents, foster parents, father‐in‐law, mother‐in‐law, children, stepchildren, foster children, sons‐in‐law, daughters‐in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, brothers‐in‐law, sisters‐in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and first cousins. Owners must provide full WPS protections for workers and handlers that are not immediate family members.

Did you know that all workers and handlers of agricultural employers must now receive ANNUAL WPS training before they perform worker or handler tasks? The previous WPS provision only required employee training every 5 years and allowed for a 5-day grace period after hire. The Revised WPS does not have a grace period and requires that employees receive WPS training within the last 12 months before:

  • Any worker enters a treated area where a WPS-labeled pesticide product has been used or a REI for such pesticide has been in effect within the past 30 days.
  • Any handler conducts any handling task (see above for a list of handler tasks).

Workers and handlers are exempt from WPS training if they are a certified restricted-use pesticide applicator, a certified crop advisor, or if a worker has been trained as a WPS handler within the last 12 months.

Employers must train workers and handlers annually, once every 12 months from the end of the month when the previous training was completed. Qualified WPS trainers can include a certified applicator of restricted-use pesticides, a trainer of certified pesticide applicators, handlers or workers by the EPA, federal, state or tribal entities; or someone who has completed an EPA-approved pesticide safety train-the-trainer program. Training must be provided in a manner that  employees can understand. Several EPA-approved resources for training employees can be found in English and Spanish with or without closed-captioning at the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC),

Employers must also keep records of worker/handler training for two years from the date of training. Records must include the following information:

    • Worker or handler’s printed name and signature
    • Training date
    • Trainer’s name and qualification(s) to train
    • Employer’s name
    • Identification of EPA-approved training materials (for example, the EPA document or approval number)

Free WPS Workshops!!!

OSU’s Pesticde Education Safety Program is offering free WPS workshops that provide employers and managers what they need to bring their WPS program in compliance with the new requirements, including changes in training, restrictions during applications, personal protective equipment, decontamination supplies, recordkeeping, and more.  Several workshops are scheduled in the next few weeks (WPS workshops flyer). Please click on one of the following dates to register!

March 13, 2017:  Scarff’s Nursery & Landscape, New Carlisle, OH

March 23, 2017:  Toledo Zoo, Toledo, OH, 9:30 to 12:30 PM

March 27, 2017:  OSU 4-H Center, Columbus, OH, 9:30 to 12:30 PM

April 13, 2017:  Lake County Education Service Center, Painesville, OH, 2:30 to 5 PM