EPA Proposes New Worker Protections for Pesticide Safety Following Pressure from Farmworker Advocates

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took important steps this week to revise protections for farmworkers exposed to pesticides by submitting an updated Worker Protection Standard to the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) for review. Pesticide exposure causes farmworkers to suffer more chemical-related injuries and illnesses than any other sector of the workforce nationwide.

Recognizing the health and safety needs of thousands of workers, Farmworker Justice and other advocacy groups launched an effort this summer to educate legislators and the EPA about the dangers farmworkers face. Workers visited with policy makers and Farmworker Justice released a report outlining the serious health risks produced by pesticide exposure. After years of pushing the agency to strengthen worker protections, these organizations hope that EPA’s recent efforts will improve worker health and safety.

“Each year pesticide exposure poisons tens of thousands of farmworkers and their families, leading to injury, illness, and death.” said Virginia Ruiz, Director of Occupational and Environmental Health at Farmworker Justice. “We applaud the EPA for taking this step to help protect the workers who labor to put food on our tables.”

Farmworker advocates are hopeful that EPA’s proposal will include important safeguards for how workers are notified about the chemical hazards they are exposed to, and their right to a safe workplace. The EPA should improve requirements to provide pesticide safety training and effective protective equipment to workers.

“Now that the regulation is at OMB, we hope that they will quickly review it and allow the rulemaking process to move forward. The public should have an opportunity to review and comment on this important public health issue,” said Ruiz.