With the amount of produce the Central Valley grows each year, the application of pesticides presents a sizeable hazard to applicators, fieldworkers and technicians. Growers have a wide variety of steps they have to take to maintain the integrity of their operations and to protect the safety of their workers. Pesticide exposure can come in many forms, with toxicity levels and degrees of exposure varying from mild dermatitis to life-threatening doses.
Due diligence in growing operations
Agricultural workers have a higher turnover rate than in many other industries. Fieldworkers may come from many different areas and could find work at multiple farms in a season. For this reason, active communication plays an integral role in farming safety. Here are some of the ways that growers can reduce accidents and potentially lower their risk exposure:
Signage: Producing signs that provide guidance and directions to aid stations, the location of pesticide applications, reentry intervals (REI) to fields, the products used/active ingredients, potable water locations, decontamination stations and necessary protective wear. Proper labels need to be maintained and translated for the workers present.
Education: It is important to familiarize workers with the practices of your operation. They may have experience in fruit operations but less vegetable production experience and knowledge of the hazards between these different operations.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Employers are required to provide the necessary PPE required for working with and in an area where your applicators put down a certain product. Entry into a field before the reentry interval is up could present substantial risks to workers without such equipment available. It’s also important for farm managers to instill the importance of this equipment to their workers and to maintain an operational culture that supports such use.
Decontamination: These stations should be present at mixing/staging areas for pesticides as well as within a quarter-mile of their application. Stations need enough clean water, cleaning products and single-use towels for washing hands, face, and body. You may also have to provide also provide changes of clothes in case of exposure.
Know the repercussions of noncompliance
In conjunction with the County Agricultural Commissioners, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) oversees the California pesticide rules. Compliance with these standards and the documentation of this compliance can go a long way to enhancing worker safety and improving an operation’s risk profiles. Moreover, you can avoid significant civil penalties and DPR license revocation from pesticide violations.