Employees are exposed to pesticides in Washington State in agriculture, landscaping, golf courses, school and public building grounds maintenance, road and highway weed control, lawn care and indoor insect control. The greatest exposure in agriculture occurs primarily in fruit orchards, but also occurs in other crops such as potatoes, berries, grapes, asparagus and other row crops. Every year approximately 250 worker compensation claims involving pesticide exposure are processed and about 15-20 complaints from employees about pesticide exposure are investigated.

WISHA is represented on the Pesticide Incidents Reporting and Tracking (PIRT) Review Panel and provides data for that panel's annual report on pesticide exposure incidents. The agency also cooperates with both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health in investigations of incidents of worker exposure to pesticides.

Regulatory Information 

Pesticides are largely regulated by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. WISHA also regulates agricultural employee exposure to pesticides in our Safety Standards for Agriculture, WAC 296-307-107. The state of Washington is unique in that both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor & Industries have identical regulations on worker protection from pesticides. These regulations are similar, but slightly more stringent than the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Workers and Handlers.

WISHA also regulates non-agriculture use of pesticides through pesticide label requirements for personal protective equipment and training requirements in our Hazard Communication regulations - WAC 296-62-054.

WRD 90-6A Agricultural Pesticide Application and Storage provides guidelines in response to common questions concerning the application, posting, storage, and documentation requirements of the new agricultural standards.

WISHA Interim Interpretive Memorandum (WIIM)


Pesticides are unique in that these chemicals are deliberately sprayed into the environment rather than being contained. Control of worker pesticide exposure is primarily accomplished through the use of personal protective equipment specified on pesticide labels. Other methods of control include the use of closed mixing and loading equipment, the use of certified pesticide tractor cabs, or the use of such alternatives as biological controls, so-called organic sprays or cultivation practices. The more toxic pesticides have been or will likely be removed from the market in the past several years. Less toxic pesticide are gradually being developed and used, or other means of controlling pests are being implemented as substitutes.


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Frequently Asked Questions


Why does L&I regulate pesticides? Isn't that the job of the Dept. of Agriculture?

While the Dept. of Agriculture has the primary job of regulating pesticides, L & I - WISHA also regulates employee exposure to pesticides. In the early 1990's the department was formally petitioned by farm worker advocates to adopt health and safety regulations for agriculture employees exposed to pesticides. Work on these rules was begun before EPA adopted their nationwide Worker Protection Standard. When the Worker Protection Standard was published in 1992, The Department of Agriculture adopted identical regulations and L & I adopted similar regulations. Because of grower concerns and legislative action in 1996, both departments adopted identical regulations. Through a formal agreement known as a "Memorandum of Understanding", WISHA was designated as the lead agency in enforcement of these worker protection regulations. WISHA does not enforce any other regulation pertaining to pesticides such as applicator certification, non-worker exposure to pesticides or authorization of pesticide products in the state of Washington.

What triggers a WISHA inspection related to pesticides of a farm or business?

Inspections are done when there is a report of a fatality or hospitalization of a worker due to pesticide exposure, or when an employee complains of ill effects of pesticide exposure or inadequate protection from pesticides or other perceived violations of pesticide regulations. WISHA will also inspect when a referral is received from the Dept. of Health or the Dept of Agriculture of worker exposure to pesticides. In addition, WISHA does conduct some unannounced inspections of farms from a list which is derived from information on worker compensation claims related to exposure to toxic chemicals, past inspections, and number of employees.

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