Washington adopts pesticide safety rules

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New rules for using pesticides, modeled after federal worker-protection standards, will take affect in Washington on Jan. 13.

Agriculture Director Derek Sandison signed the rules Wednesday. They will bring state regulations in line with rules that are being phased in by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The regulations cover such subjects as training applicators, posting safety information, decontaminating workers and providing medical care.

“The worker-protection standards cover a lot of areas,” Sandison said in a written statement. “It’s critical that agricultural employees learn and understand what’s being required to comply and protect their workers and their communities.”

The EPA adopted new standards in 2015. Most went effect last year, while more are scheduled to take effect next year. States can adopt more stringent standards, but must at least meet federal rules.

In some ways, the new EPA rules will bring the federal standards to those already followed in Washington, according to WSDA. The state and federal rules will now be essentially identical, according to the department.

WSDA says it will work with growers to understand the new rules and won’t enforce them until EPA-approved training materials are available.

The EPA has issued a manual on complying with the regulations.

The new requirements include:

• Workers must undergo annual training in handling pesticides. Previously, training was required every five years. Also, employers must keep training records for two years.

• Information about pesticide safety and current applications must be posted for workers to see. The rules provide specific instructions on what must be posted, and when and where.

• Employers must keep everyone expect trained workers out of the area while pesticides are applied. The areas range from 100 feet to 25 feet depending on the type of equipment used to spray the pesticide.

WSDA received three written comments on the rules. The most extensive comments were from Columbia Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm, and Community To Community Development, a Bellingham-based organization whose stated goals include ending capitalism.

WSDA rejected several proposals by both groups. Columbia Legal Services advocated barring applications within a quarter-mile of housing. Community to Community proposed prohibiting pesticide applications within 1.5 miles of a school or farmworker housing.

WSDA said the proposals were outside the purpose of the rules, which are to protect workers and pesticide applicators. WSDA noted that it investigates pesticides drifting off farms and issues fines.