The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced a 60-day extension for the comment period regarding changes to training and safety measures for farmworkers when handling or working near pesticides. The proposed changes were first announced in February.
The comment period will now be open until August 18, 2014, following requests from growers, industry, farmworker advocates and states for additional time to provide input.
"The opportunity to revise the rule may not come again for some time, so we are committed to getting it right," Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention said in an EPA statement.
This is the first time in 20 years that the regulation has been updated. It will provide more protections for two million farmworkers, EPA said.
Under the proposal, EPA moves from mandatory safety training for workers every five years to annual training. It also requires the farm operator to retain records on training and the type of pesticides used on the farm, and a larger buffer zone will be required near treated fields to protect workers from pesticide overspray and fumes.
In addition, the EPA has proposed that children under 16 be legally barred from handling all pesticides. Currently, under-16 handling of toxicity category one and two pesticides is regulated under the Fair Labor Standards Act, but all pesticides, regardless of toxicity, would be regulated with the new proposal.
If working on a family farm, regulations specify that immediate family members would be exempt from the under 16 rule.
The proposal is posted on the Federal Register under docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0184. EPA said in February that the final rule is expected to be finalized within one year.