Using a Pesticide that Requires a Respirator?

April 15, 2019 7:59 AM
Blog Post

Under the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) as revised in 2015, there are specific requirements for handlers when pesticide labels require the use of a respirator. Handlers are employees, owners, and family members who apply, load, unload, rinse pesticide application equipment or do other tasks involving the direct handling of pesticides.

Before you and your employees can use a respirator, you must receive:

  • A medical evaluation by a physician or other licensed health care professional to determine if you are physically fit to wear a respirator
  • Fit-testing with a taste/smell/irritating indicator or with quantitative measurements to determine if the respirator forms a complete seal with your face
  • Training about the use, care, and maintenance of the respirator

WPS Respiratory Protection GuideThe WPS Respiratory Protection Guide available for download or purchase can help you navigate this process. Follow these steps to ensure you are in compliance with the WPS.

  1. Review the pesticide label to determine what type(s) and under what conditions a respirator will be used. (see pages 11-16 in the WPS Respiratory Protection Guide)
  2. Determine who will be mixing, handling, loading, and/or applying pesticides requiring a respirator  
  3. Have each person requiring respirator protection complete an OSHA Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire. Ensure the questionnaire is reviewed by a local healthcare provider. (see pages 17-18 in the WPS Respiratory Protection Guide)
  4. Arrange for the employee to complete respirator fit testing using the same type of respirator required on the label of the pesticide(s) they will be using. Health care providers in your area may provide this service or know of a local resource. (see pages 19-20 in the WPS Respiratory Protection Guide)
  5. Conduct training on use, care, and maintenance of respirators. (see pages 21-22 in the WPS Respiratory Protection Guide)

Additional things to consider:

  • Medical clearance is only required once, unless medical problems arise or a fit test indicates a need for re-evaluation
  • An annual fit test is required for all tight-fitting respirators, when required by the pesticide label
  • Respirator training is required annually or when workplace conditions change or a new type of respirator is used
  • Records and documentation of medical clearance, fit-testing, and training must be maintained for at least two years

Elizabeth Danielson Extension Specialist

Betsy Danielson is an extension specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in the Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP).