Despite a last second request to delay them, revisions to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Worker Protection Standard (WPS) will go into effect next week, as planned.
Last week, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) asked EPA to delay implementation by a year. EPA said it would respond officially to the petition in the new year, but in the mean time, the revisions will take effect as scheduled.
The two groups had argued that EPA had failed to provide state lead agencies, or SLA’s, with needed training materials and guidance, and had not properly alerted Congress to certain provisions in the rule, such as the “designated representative” provision, which allows workers to designate a third party to receive pesticide use records from an agricultural employer. The groups, and their members are worried that anti-pesticide groups could gain access to the records and “make it seem as if (the farmers) are doing something illegal,” said Paul Schlegel, director of environment and energy policy at AFBF.
NASDA argued that “the materials and resources that states need to facilitate implementation and do outreach just aren’t there.”
But Virginia Ruiz, director of occupational and ecological health at Farmworker Justice, said she was “bewildered” by the request. She cited the long history behind the rule, which was announced well over a year ago. “They’re not drastic changes,” she said, calling the rule “a step in the right direction to making the agricultural workplace safer.”
“Workers have the right to access that information already,” she said. “We’ve seen a couple of cases where workers were impeded in accessing important exposure information that would have helped them get medical treatment.”She said it’s important for workers, who often do not speak English and are afraid that asking for information might threaten their employment, to be able to designate someone else to receive pesticide use information.