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The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed changes to the agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to increase protections from pesticide exposure for the 2 million workers who work in agriculture and their families.

“This is an important milestone for the farm workers who plant, tend, and harvest the food that we put on our tables each day,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, noting that similar standards are in place in other industries.

Notice was to be published in the Federal Register soon after the February 20 announcement. EPA is seeking public comment by the date that will be specified in the Federal Register notice. The notice will be at www.regulations.gov identified by docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0184-0002.

“Your comments will help EPA to determine the final version of this regulation,” McCarthy said.

Proposed changes to the WPS include:

—Increased frequency of mandatory trainings, including instructions to reduce take-home exposure from pesticides on work clothing and other safety topics;

—Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs;

—first time-ever minimum age requirement. Children under 16 will be prohibited from handling pesticides, with an exemption for family farms;

—No-entry buffer areas surrounding pesticide-treated fields;

—Measures to improve the states’ ability to enforce compliance, requiring employers to keep records of application-specific pesticide information as well as farmworker training and early-entry notification for two years;

—Personal Protection Equipment (respirator use) must be consistent with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration standards;

—Make available to farm workers information specific to the pesticide application, including the pesticide label and Safety Data Sheets;

—Continues the exemptions for family farms.