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February 28, 2017

Worker Pesticide Safety More Important Than Ever After Pesticide-Related Deaths

In light of the recent incident in Texas where a pesticide mixed with water to cause a toxic gas, businesses utilizing pesticides in their operations may face increased scrutiny by regulatory agencies. This incident caused the death of four minors and sent another five people to the hospital.

Agricultural workers and pesticide handlers are encouraged to redouble their efforts to follow the Worker Protection Standard (WPS)—a federal regulation designed to reduce the risk of accidental pesticide poisoning or exposure for the workers and pesticide handlers involved with agribusinesses. Failure to follow the guidelines set forth by the WPS can result in accidental exposure to pesticides, such as the incident in Texas.

There are three basic principles that form the foundation of the WPS:

  1. Information: Pesticide safety information is communicated through training and informative posters at centralized locations or a site affected by the application of pesticides.
  2. Protection: Protection from pesticides includes excluding regular workers and others from areas treated by pesticides, as well as prohibiting a handler from applying pesticides in a way that will expose workers or others.
  3. Mitigation: To mitigate exposure to pesticides, an employer will provide supplies to include water, soap, and single-use paper towels for routine washing and emergency decontamination.

The Environmental Protection Agency, along with state and county agriculture commissioner’s offices, monitor compliance with the WPS through inspections. Employers of ag workers and pesticide handlers may be inspected if a complaint or tip is filed, a random selection is conducted or if they are a targeted business. Failure to comply with the label instructions can result in a pesticide misuse violation consisting of a warning letter, administrative order, administrative order with penalty, civil lawsuit or criminal charges.

Western Growers Insurance Services loss control consultants and supporting staff are available to conduct a variety of safety trainings including the mandatory WPS safety training. Additionally, the Insurance Services team can provide consultative assistance with the documentation necessary to be compliant with the federal, state or county government agencies overseeing the use of pesticides.

For more information or if you would like support from Insurance Services, please contact Ken Cooper, director of risk strategy at WGIS, at (949) 379-3858.