pesticide exposure

Limiting Pesticide Exposure

Dan Citrus, Pest/Pest Control

pesticide exposure
Dermal exposure is the most common type of pesticide exposure and typically occurs on the hands and forearms.

When we are caught up in the everyday routine of our jobs, it can be easy to forget some essential safety precautions that all agricultural employees should be taking. All agricultural employees could be exposed to pesticides while working in a grove. Proper training is essential to ensure employees understand the risks associated with their jobs and know how to identify hazardous situations. By understanding and identifying safety hazards, employees will be equipped to limit pesticide exposure and potential harm to themselves and others.


The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a federal requirement for all agricultural pesticide handlers and workers. The provisions under this rule are listed in the “Agricultural Use Requirements” box found on all pesticide labels.

The purpose of the WPS is to minimize potential pesticide exposure for handlers and workers.

A handler is defined as someone who mixes, loads and applies pesticides. People can also be considered handlers if they serve as a flagger for a pesticide application, transport open pesticide containers or work on application equipment containing pesticide residues.


A worker is defined as an employee at an agricultural establishment who does not handle or apply pesticides or perform other handler duties. An example of a worker would be someone responsible for pruning trees or maintaining irrigation lines. Workers can still be exposed to pesticides from residue on plants or equipment and other sources such as spray or vapor drift.

Annual training for workers and handlers is required for agricultural employers to comply with the WPS. Topics discussed in the WPS training are personal protective equipment (PPE), restricted entry intervals, early-entry workers, pesticide poisoning and the agricultural exclusion zone. This training can be done on site by the employer or through a third party such as the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Service using training materials approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Certified pesticide applicators that hold a current restricted-use pesticide license are exempt from the annual training requirement but must follow the guidelines of the WPS. The annual training is still beneficial and can serve as a good safety reminder for pesticide handlers, even if they are certified applicators. New employees are required to have training before beginning their job duties.


Pesticide handlers, applicators and agricultural workers can be exposed to pesticides and residues in the grove. Pesticide handlers have a greater risk of being exposed to concentrated pesticides through mixing and loading procedures. The pesticide label has instructions for first aid and how to minimize exposure.

Pesticide exposure could result in acute or fast-acting injuries and illness or be expressed as chronic, delayed reactions and illness. Pesticide poisoning symptoms can also mimic heat-related illness and result in allergic reactions and sensitivity to the …..

Learn more about Limiting Pesticide Exposure By Ajia Paolillo, a UF/IFAS Extension multi-county citrus agent based in Arcadia on the Citrus Industry website.