EPA Announces Changes to AEZ Rule
By: Steven Ramirez, ESD Inspector
On October 29, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that there had been regulation improvements to the Application Exclusion Zone in the Worker Protection Standard. The Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) is the area surrounding the pesticide application and must be free of anyone other than trained applicators. In a press release, the EPA said these changes will “improve the enforceability and workability of the AEZ requirements, decrease regulatory burdens for farmers and maintain critical worker protections.” After discussions with state regulatory agencies and agricultural stakeholders, the EPA has introduced the following amendments.
First, AEZ requirements will now only apply within the boundaries of the agricultural establishment. This will eliminate off-farm responsibilities that were difficult for state regulators to enforce. Second, farm owners and their immediate family members are now exempted from AEZ requirements. This gives owners and their families more flexibility. They can stay indoors and on-site during applications as opposed to being forced to leave. Third, new language has been added which clarifies when applications can be suspended and resumed as individuals enter and leave the AEZ. Finally, the EPA has simplified the criteria to determine whether a 25 foot or 100 foot zone will be implemented. No changes will be made to standards regarding pesticide contact with applicators, a subject many were concerned might change.
When developed in 2015, the AEZ was meant to supplement the existing Worker Protection Standard. As state regulators voiced their frustrations in enforcing AEZ measures, farm owners expressed how difficult it was to apply and comply with the law. These issues resulted in the amendments made by the EPA. The rule is set to take effect on December 29, 2020.
For a complete breakdown on AEZ changes, please visit the EPA website at: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/worker-protection-standard-application-exclusion-zone
For more information on the AEZ or any other WPS topic you may call our WPS inspectors. In Phoenix, call Insp. Alex Meraz at (602) 542-3421 and in Yuma, Inps. Alex Bellotti at (928) 344-7909.