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AmericanHort Opposes EPA's Revised Worker Protection Standard

Friday, August 22, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
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Federal RegisterWASHINGTON, D.C. – AmericanHort went on record opposing EPA’s revised worker protection standard (WPS) rules in August.

Leading a coalition of the Society of American Florists, The National Christmas Tree Growers and the California Cut Flower Commission, AmericanHort submitted comments to EPA objecting that the proposed regulation was based on “allegations about worker exposure and chronic illness… not substantiated nor validated by scientific evidence or practical experience.”

Some of the specific concerns raised by AmericanHort were:

Authorized Representative. EPA should remove the concept of an “Authorized representative” from the proposed rule. This proposed requirement raises complex and confusing legal issues and may conflict with various federal and state labor laws. The requirement is not related to worker safety and instead appears to be an effort by the federal government to assert union or worker advocate participation in agricultural employment. EPA regulations should not intrude into labor law issues.

Worker Training (§ 170.101). Subsection 101(a) would require worker training every 12 months. We do not believe that a yearly interval for in-depth training is necessary for nursery and greenhouse workers. We believe that the training interval and content should recognize the workers’ duties, existing experience, and previous training. An annual refresher training course coupled with occasional in-depth retraining should be adequate for experienced workers. New workers should receive in-depth training.

Training Verification (§§ 170.101(d) and 170.201(d)). We do not believe a blanket requirement to provide records of training to employees provides value. Most will not retain such information. It could be required that records be provided on request. That way, if a worker is changing employment, they could access their training record for the next employer. In the hiring and training process, there are many things other than WPS that are included in orientation. Training must be a structured process with elements occurring in progression. It would be cumbersome to customize the training and recordkeeping process by individual. Date of birth should not be included as part of the record; training records commonly involve a group sign-in sheet, and there are obvious privacy concerns with certain information.

Warning Sign Content (§ 170.109(b)(3)(ii)). WPS warning signs commonly used in horticultural growing operations are reported to cost around $6.00 each. Large operations may maintain

1000 or more signs. How did the Agency arrive at the conclusion that the cost to implement the warning sign change would be $0.25 per establishment? A requirement to change warning signs constitutes significant cost burden. Any change would need to be phased in over years and the transition would add a great deal of confusion. Training and enforcement of the current sign’s meaning is the responsibility of the employer. Few employees are allowed to enter a treated area during an REI, and they understand the meaning of the warning sign and their responsibilities. Changing the message to “entry restricted” will dilute the meaning to the majority of farm workers and create compliance confusion.

Click here to download a full copy of the AmericanHort comments to review all specific concerns.

Click here to review the full copy of the proposed EPA worker protection standard. 

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