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Farmworkers: Know Your Rights about Pesticides

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project - CLEAR Intake Line LSC Funded
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A summary of your rights when working with pesticides. #2914EN

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If you are a field worker in Washington State, these are your rights:

  • To get training about the hazards of working around dangerous pesticides
  • at the time of your job assignment AND
    • whenever a new health hazard related to a chemical exposure is introduced AND
    • at least every five years
  • To have a poster displayed in a central spot with the names of the pesticides used in the last thirty days, when they were applied, AND
    • a poster with general pesticide safety information and the name and address of the nearest emergency medical facility AND 
    • verbal information about the most toxic pesticides
  • To stay out of a pesticide-treated area until the restricted entry interval is up. (The "REI" is the period you must stay out of a treated area.)
  • The period to stay out (REI) is usually from four to 72 hours. It depends on the pesticide used. It can be much longer, such as two weeks for Guthion.
  • If they tell you to go into the treated area before the REI has passed, you have the right to use the proper protective equipment the pesticide label requires and to follow other label restrictions for entering the treated area. If you do not receive these extra protections, you do not have to enter fields covered by an REI.
  • To have access to decontamination areas, with water, soap and towels, to wash, in case of accidental exposure to pesticides.
  • To be protected from pesticide drift from your workplace or from a neighboring workplace.
  • To get medical attention if you believe you have become ill from pesticide exposure.
  • Your employer must give you free transportation to a medical facility from the field or labor camp. 
  • You have the right to file a claim for Industrial Insurance and have at least the first doctor visit paid. If L & I approves your claim, it could cover the costs of medical treatment and time missed from work due to illness (if more than three days). It is illegal to retaliate or discriminate against a worker for filing an Industrial Insurance claim.
  • Your employer, if asked, must tell you or your representative the name of the pesticide(s) used.

If you are a pesticide handler (who sprays, mixes or loads pesticides), these are your rights:

  • To receive any personal protective equipment (PPE) the pesticide label requires, such as gloves, protective clothing, or a respirator.
  • You have the right to get instruction on proper use.
  • You have the right to use personal protective equipment (PPE) that is in good condition and kept clean by the employer. Equipment must be inspected every day of use for problems and repairs.
  • To receive a copy of the product label for the pesticide you are spraying/mixing/loading. If you cannot read the label, you have the right to have it explained to you. 
  • To not spray if pesticides are coming around other people, or if the weather could cause drift that might damage or injure nearby people, land, desirable plants, or animals. 
  • To have access to decontamination areas supplied with clean water, eye flush dispensers, disposable towels, and clean clothing, such as coveralls.
  • To emergency medical help. Your employer must give you free transportation to a health care facility if you believe you have become ill from exposure to pesticides.

Note: Workers who regularly handle certain pesticides that can poison the nervous system can have the right to blood tests to see if they have had too much exposure (Cholinesterase). Contact Legal Services for more information.

To report a violation of any rights regarding pesticide violations in employment, contact:

  • The Department of Labor and Industries at 1-800-354-5423 OR

  • The Washington Department of Health at 1-888-586-9427 OR

  • The Legal Services offices listed below

 Any worker who tries to follow pesticide rules or complains about pesticide exposure or other practices has the right to NOT SUFFER RETALIATION or DISCRIMINATION for exercising their rights.          

If you have a problem with pesticides or you have suffered retaliation or discrimination for exercising any rights regarding pesticides, you can contact any of the offices below for help:

 

NORTHWEST JUSTICE PROJECT
311 N. 4th Street, Suite 201
Yakima, WA 98901
Tel: 1-888-201-1018 or (509) 574-4234

COLUMBIA LEGAL SERVICES
600 Larson Building
6 South Second Street          
Yakima, WA 98901
Tel: 1-800-631-1323 or (509) 575-5593

 

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Last Review and Update: Dec 04, 2019
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