Farmworker education is important, especially in states with diverse agriculture and a heavy investment in labor. Washington state has led the charge since 1998, when the Worker Protection Standard was implemented nationwide.
The Farmworker Education Program has evolved to become the Washington State Department of Agriculture Technical Service and Education Program (TSEP). The program fills a need discovered back when the Worker Protection Standard began, when state officials found employers and employees lacked awareness of personal protective equipment requirements.
For WSDA, the answer was to create a program designed to meet the needs of a diverse labor population. TSEP is now headed by Ofelio Borges, director, WSDA Pesticide Management Division. The TSEP team includes Flor Servin, Jaime Ramon, Lorena Lopez, Manuel Ornelas, Bradley Farrar, Jeff Robinson, Joe Hoffman and Kimberly Diaz.
Recently, the TSEP effort was honored with a Program Innovation Award by The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance during that group’s annual conference in San Antonio.
Meeting worker needs
For WSDA TSEP, the key is developing program that would meet the needs of that diverse workforce. The division now offers a range of courses, including:
• Spanish pre-license private applicator classes, up to 20 hours
• Worker Protection Standard train-the-trainer in Spanish and English, two-day course
• WPS train-the-trainer refresher, four-hour course
• Hands-on pesticide handler training in Spanish, eight-hour course
• Hands-on respirator fit test, train-the-trainer, six-hour course
• Spray application equipment best management practices workshop (and videos), eight-hour course
The group also manages WSDA’s Waste Pesticide Identification and Disposal Program in cooperation with local agencies. The program collects unusable agricultural and commercial-grade pesticides from residents, farmers, small businesses and public agencies, free of charge.
TPSA acknowledged that the entire ag industry has benefited from the program by learning about pesticides, protection and exposures and having a safer and healthier workplace as a result. TSEP partners regularly with industry and offers training to the ag community. Currently, Washington state has one of the most robust pesticide safety training programs in the nation.
TPSA, founded in 2000, is made up of federal, state and local governmental agencies, educational and research institutions, public organizations, private corporations and individuals actively involved in different aspects of pesticide stewardship.