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Oregon OSHA plans to adopt EPA’s pesticide protections for workers

State's shelter in place provision differs from federal standards

Posted February 14, 2017

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) plans to adopt “most of” a set of updated pesticide rules. The rules, proposed in 2016, correspond with federal EPA’s Worker Protection Standard (WPS), which updated standards affecting training, pesticide labeling, and respiratory and emergency eye-washing requirements.

The state is also addressing protections for occupants of farm labor housing when pesticides are sprayed on nearby crops. Oregon OSHA says it received a significant amount of public comments on its proposal to protect these workers, and will kick off a new rulemaking early in the year to revisit that issue.

The rules become effective on January 1, 2018, to allow time for the additional rulemaking process and transitions to the new standards.

According to Oregon OSHA, the state is moving forward with several rule changes it introduced in order to reflect the unique circumstances for Oregon employers, while embracing changes made by EPA. Further, the state made adjustments to the rules based on public comments, such as streamlining the proposed training requirements for licensed trainers of pesticide handlers.

Differences in Oregon OSHA’s proposed rules and EPA’s Worker Protection Standard include a compliance alternative to EPA’s exclusion zone requirements. This zone surrounds and moves with pesticide-spray equipment as it applies pesticides. Only properly trained and equipped pesticide applicators are allowed in the zone. Oregon’s alternative, known as “shelter in place,” would allow occupants of protected spaces, including fully-enclosed housing, to remain indoors as a protection from the potential hazard of spray drift as the zone created by pesticide-spray equipment in a nearby crop area completes its work.

Oregon OSHA plans to re-convene its Small Agricultural Employer Advisory Committee to discuss how to best protect occupants of farm labor housing from pesticides.

The agency will also ask the committee to consider ways to strengthen the shelter in place alternative along with the underlying exclusion zone requirement. Further, Oregon OSHA wants to work with the committee on new draft language so the agency can re-proposed the rule in time for it to take effect with the other revised sections of the WPS on January 1, 2018.

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