Farming Community Respiratory Protection Partnerships

Effective January 2, 2017, revisions to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Worker Protection Standard (WPS) will be effective.  Among these revisions is the requirement that any chemical labeled for respiratory protection will require that all handlers be medically evaluated, fit tested and trained in the use and care of respirators.  This requirement will particularly affect Christmas tree growers in western North Carolina who use dimethoate in the production of their trees.  Cooperative Extension agents indicate that there are as many as 1000 handlers per county who will require medical evaluation, respirator fit test and training.  Agents also indicate that there are limited, if any, occupational health providers in the region who can assist growers in complying with the new requirements.  In order to determine and remediate the burden that the EPA’s revision to the WPS has placed on Christmas tree producing communities this project will: 1) conduct a gap analysis in twenty-one Christmas tree producing counties to determine the number of individuals required to comply with the new respiratory protection requirements compared to the occupational health provider capacity available to assist farms with initial and ongoing compliance; 2) work with counties were gaps exist to develop and implement sustainable respiratory protection program solutions; and 3) disseminate solutions to other counties and commodity groups across North Carolina and beyond.