The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with Bayer CropScience LP, a company that operates a research facility and nursery in Sabana Grande, to correct violations of federal regulations governing the use of pesticides on farms, the agency announced Thursday.
The company failed to follow federal rules aimed at reducing or eliminating the exposure of farm workers to chemicals. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will take a number of steps to better protect the health of the workers at its facilities and come into full compliance with federal pesticide law.
The company will have to pay a $53,000 penalty as per the agreement.
“Exposure to pesticides can have serious effects on people’s health,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “This legal action will protect the health of the workers and reminds owners of agricultural businesses that they must be proactive in educating workers and protect them against potentially harmful pesticides.”
In April 2012, inspectors from the EPA and the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture visited the Sabana Grande farm to evaluate compliance with federal pesticide law at this location.
The inspection, which included interviews with farm employees and a review of the farm’s pesticide application records, revealed that Bayer CropScience had failed to comply with numerous provisions of the federal pesticide law’s worker protection standards.
Bayer CropScience failed to have an ample supply of water, soap and towels for routine washing, as well as an emergency decontamination area for workers. In addition, Bayer CropScience used pesticides in a manner inconsistent with label requirements. When a pesticide is used in a manner not described on its label, the health of workers handling such pesticides and others can be put at risk, the agency said.
Bayer CropScience has initiated changes to its procedures at the Sabana Grande farm and at other company facilities to bring it into compliance with federal pesticide law designed to protect workers.
Such measures include the installation of permanent decontamination stations at the Sabana Grande farm and the construction of a portable shower unit that can be brought directly to employees working at the company’s farms. The company has also begun a review of its standard operating procedures at all of its research farms.
Worker protection provisions of the federal pesticide law are designed to reduce the risk of illness or injury resulting from agricultural field workers’ occupational exposure to pesticides.
They govern pesticide use and require that workers and pesticide handlers be given training, equipment and information. Workers may be injured from direct spray, drift or residue left by pesticides applications; handlers face additional risks from spills, splashes, inhalation and inadequate protective equipment.