Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19):
Information, Materials and Services for Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Industries
Current COVID-19 Updates
Fit Test Requirements Relaxed for 2020 due to COVID-19 - March 24, 2020
The Worker Protection Standard requirement of annual respirator fit testings for agricultural workers who handle pesticides may be deferred for some in 2020, according to a representative of the The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). This is in response to the increased risk of spreading Coronavirus during respirator fit testings and the urgent need of preserving fit-testing resources for health professionals. As a result, the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH) will be cancelling many of its upcoming respirator fit-testing clinics scheduled throughout the state. NYCAMH's supply of N95 masks are also greatly limited due to national shortages, as these are rerouted to frontline healthcare staff.
The DEC is currently waiting for additional guidance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the issue of temporarily adjusting WPS regulations in the wake of the pandemic.
Who is Temporarily Exempt
The DEC's Bureau of Pesticides Management announced it will recognize pesticide handlers that were fit-tested during the 2019 season as meeting WPS requirements for the 2020 season with some exceptions. This discretion will not extend beyond the 2020 season, and handlers are encouraged to get fit-tested as soon as resources allow, said Anthony Lamanno, Section Chief of the DEC's Pesticide Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Section.
This discretion does not apply to handlers who have gained or lost 20 pounds or more or who have had dental/face surgery since their last fit test. Handlers that were not fit-tested during the 2019 season also will not be covered by this discretion, said Lamanno.
According to the EPA Worker Protection Standard, any agricultural worker applying a pesticide must comply with pesticide label specifications regarding respirator use. (The pesticide label will specify if a respirator is required and, if so, which type is needed.) OSHA requires that an annual fit test be performed with the same make, model, style, and size of respirator before it is used that year. In addition to the fit test, a pesticide applicator must be trained and medically cleared to ensure there are no health risks to an individual working and wearing a respirator. Farms must keep records of employee fit-tests for up to two years.
NYCAMH has added a COVID-19 page to its website—www.nycamh.org—to provide agricultural employers and workers with information and resources related to worker health and safety issues and the disease. It includes information and resources for Spanish-speaking workers.