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EPA issues final rule on PPE for agricultural workers.

I a move that many anticipate will increase demand for nonwovens in the agricultural industry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its long-awaited final rule on personal protective equipment (PPE) for agricultural workers. The rule basically requires that, beginning October 20, 1992, PPE must be provided to any workers who handle pesticides or are sent into areas where pesticides have recently been used. The rule has been EPA consideration since 1988

While the rule does not require that single-use PPE be provided to workers, it does contain provisions that could make single-use products more attractive to employers than reusables.

INDA worked closely with EPA personnel during the development of this final rule and is pleased that it has been released, although it would have preferred that stronger language be included encouraging the use of single-use products.

The Final Rule

Under provisions of the final rule, PPE is to be provided to any person who handles pesticides and to any person who enters a treated area before the expiration of a "restricted entry interval." PPE requirements for these two types of workers varies.

The rule requires that pesticide products be labeled so that the approximately PPE is specified. EPA recognizes four different levels of toxicity - Class I being the most toxic, Class IV, the least - for pesticides, and three different "routes of exposure": dermal toxicity (skin contact), inhalation toxicity and eye irritation potential.

With Class I and II pesticides, workers must be protected against all three routes of exposure. At a minimum, a chemical-resistant suit or coveralls worn over a long-sleeved shirt and long pants must be provided, along with chemical-resistant footwear (which includes standard footwear protected by chemical-resistant shoe coverings), chemical-resistant gloves, a respiratory protection device and protective eye wear.

With Class IIl pesticides, a long-sleeved shirt and pants must be worn, as well as shoes, socks and chemical-resistant gloves. Class IV pesticides require the same PPE as Class III, except gloves are not necessary. EPA designed the requirements so that an incentive would be provided to use the least toxic pesticides.

Single-use Versus Reusables

EPA recognizes that PPE is currently the best means of preventing exposure to pesticides, but the agency is also aware of comfort issues when workers are required to wear an extra layer of clothing while performing manual labor during summer months.

Therefore, while the rule specifies that coveralls may be provided if worn as a second layer of clothing on top of a long-sleeved shirt and pants, when working with Class I pesticides, the EPA also notes that (workers may) wear a chemical-resistant protective suit as an alternative to two layers of clothing. The development of various types of disposable chemical-resistant garments made of nonwoven materials... gives pesticide users a wide choice of protective materials."

With Class II pesticides, employers are given the option of providing a chemical-resistant suit or coveralls worn on top of a T-shirt and shorts.

In all cases, the EPA recognizes that a chemical-resistant suit will be more comfortable for workers and offer greater protection than two layers of clothing.

In fact, language in the rule's prologue specifically states that "a chemical-resistant suit... is more protective than a coverall or a long-sleeved shirt and long pants." Pesticide manufacturers are also allowed to label products so that use of a chemical-resistant apron is required.

Employer Responsibilities

The rule places all PPE cleaning, decontamination and maintenance requirements on employers.

It is the employer's responsibility to insure that all PPE be inspected for leaks, holes, tears or worn areas every day before use. Employers must provide facilities to insure that PPE is cleaned every day before use according to manufacturer's instructions. Before being stored, all clean PPE is to be dried thoroughly or put in a well ventilated place to dry. PPE contaminated with pesticides is to be washed separately from any other clothing and laundry.

The rule requires that warnings be provided to any person who cleans or launders PPE that may be contaminated with pesticides. Such warnings are to outline the potentially harmful effects of exposure to pesticides as well as proper ways to clean and handle contaminated garments.

The rule also makes the employer responsible for preventing workers from wearing or taking home any contaminated PPE.

All of these requirements could encourage employers to provide employees with single-use products.

Moreover, in terms of disposal, employers are responsible for complying with all federal, state and local laws regardless of whether the item being disposed of is a single-use product or a damaged reusable.

Penalties for not complying with the rule are stiff. Commercial applicators can be fined up to $5000 for each offense and private applicators can be fined up to $1000 per offense. In addition, for "knowingly" violating the law, commercial applicators can be End up to $50,000 and be sentenced to a year in jail Private applicators can be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to a year in jail.

As with the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens rule, this EPA action should provide an opportunity to increase markets for nonwoven protective apparel.

While the rule does not specify that nonwovens be used to protect workers, it does provide employer requirements that could open doors for our industry.

Since nonwovens are more comfortable, do not need to be cleaned and are inspected by the manufacturer prior to sale, they will eliminate many of the compliance requirements - and potential liability - that employers will face under this rule.

It is now up to our industry to take full advantage of this new rule through aggressive marketing to the agricultural industry.

Peter Mayberry is the director of government affairs for INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry. He works out of the Washington, DC offices of Keller & Heckman, INDA's legal counsel. This Capital Comments column appears monthly in NONWOVENS INDUSTRY.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Rodman Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Environmental Protection Agency; personal protective equipment
Author:Mayberry, Peter
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:970
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