EPA Revises Application Exclusion Zone Requirements
By Steve Tomasko
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency revised the Worker Protection Standard (WPS). Part of that revision included something called an “Application Exclusion Zone” (AEZ). The AEZ is an area surrounding a pesticide application that the handler, or applicator, must make sure is free of all people other than appropriately trained and equipped handlers. Due to feedback on the original AEZ, the EPA has modified some of the requirements. The agency says these changes will clarify and simplify the AEZ rule.
A bit of background: the WPS is a regulation intended to reduce the risks of illness or injury to workers and handlers resulting from occupational exposures to pesticides used in the production of agricultural plants. The WPS was first enacted in 1992 and was later revised in 2015. Because the WPS deals with people on agricultural establishments (i.e., farms), it mainly applies to the owners of those farms. However, commercial pesticide applicators doing contract work on agricultural establishments also need to follow some of the WPS rules—this includes the AEZ. The revised AEZ requirements take effect on December 29, 2020.
The EPA amended the AEZ definition to “the area surrounding the point(s) of pesticide discharge from the application equipment that must generally be free of all persons during pesticide applications.” The changes clarify where the AEZ distance begins (point of discharge instead of the application equipment itself) and emphasize that the AEZ must generally be free of all persons. They added “generally” because there are a few exemptions and exceptions, such as trained and equipped handlers involved in the application may be within an AEZ during application.
The EPA also made the following changes to the AEZ provision:
- Limits the AEZ requirements to within the boundaries of the agricultural establishment.
- The handler/applicator is not responsible for implementing AEZ requirements off the establishment, where the owner lacks control over persons in the AEZ.
- Clarifies and simplifies the size requirements for the AEZ.
- Expands the exemption for owners of agricultural establishments and their immediate families to exempt them from the requirement to leave the AEZ when in an enclosed building.
No changes were made to the “Do Not Contact” provision that prohibits a handler/applicator and the handler’s employer from applying a pesticide in a way that it contacts workers or other people directly or through drift.
The changes noted above, along with others, are outlined in the table comparing the original AEZ rule to the revised one.
This graphic gives a simplified visual for the AEZ. The AEZ is sort of a bubble that moves along with the application equipment. As long as workers or other people are outside the AEZ, applications can proceed as normal. If people enter, or the applicator nears people close enough so that they would be in the AEZ, the application must stop. Once people are outside the AEZ, the application can proceed again.
To read the rule in full, visit: EPA Website