CATCH THE BUZZ – EPA Proposes Stronger Standards for People Applying Riskiest Pesticides

Buzz 8-18-2015

On August 5, 2015 the EPA issued a proposal to revise the Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule. The rule would help keep our communities safe, protect the environment and reduce risk to those applying pesticides. Pesticide use would be safer with increased supervision and oversight. The proposed changes will help ensure that the riskiest pesticides are used safely.

EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for 90 days at under docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0183 once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.

What is EPA announcing?

The EPA is proposing stronger training and certification standards for pesticide applicators who are certified to apply the riskiest pesticides, known as restricted use pesticides (RUPs). Federal regulations require applicators to be certified in order to apply RUPs. Additionally, RUPs may  be used only by, or under the direct supervision of, certified applicators. The goal is to reduce the likelihood of harm from the misapplication of RUPs and ensure a consistent level of protection among states.

Who would this proposed rule affect, and how?

There are approximately one million pesticide applicators in the United States using RUPs and the proposed rule would impact all of those applicators, including commercial pesticide applicators and private pesticide applicators, such as farmers and ranchers.

The proposed rule would also impact states and tribes that operate certification programs. The impact on applicators and states and tribes would vary based on the current state or tribal requirements.

Most states already have in place some or many of the elements of the rule that EPA is proposing, such as mandatory recertification, specialized certification to use high risk application methods (aerial and fumigation), more stringent certification requirements for private applicators, and training for noncertified applicators.

How do these proposed revisions differ from the current Certification and Training Rule?

The proposed rule:

  • Enhances applicator competency standards to ensure that RUPs are used safely.
  • Establishes a first time-ever nation-wide minimum age of 18 for certified applicators and persons working under their direct supervision.
  • Requires all applicators to renew certifications every 3 years.
  • Requires additional specialized certifications for people using high-risk application methods (fumigation and aerial).
  • Requires first time annual safety training and increased oversight for persons working under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. Training includes reducing take-home pesticide exposure to protect worker families.
  • Promotes interstate recognition of applicator licenses to reduce the administrative burden for businesses that operate in multiple states.
  • Provides expanded options for establishing certification programs in Indian Country that acknowledge tribal sovereignty.
  • Clarifies and streamlines requirements for states, tribes, and federal agencies to administer their own certification programs.

See the proposed revisions and current rule at the bottom

Which pesticides are included in this proposed rule?

EPA classifies the most acutely toxic pesticides or those needing to be applied with special care as “restricted use,” which means they may be bought and applied only by a certified applicator or someone working under his or her direct supervision. RUPs are not available for purchase or use by the general public.

State pesticide regulatory agencies issue certifications to pesticide applicators who demonstrate, under an EPA-approved program, that they can use the products safely. Many state pesticide regulatory agencies require applicator certification to use all pesticides commercially, whether or not they are RUPs.

EPA registers pesticides for use on specific sites and with specific limitations. For example, a product registered for use only on apples may not be used legally on grapes, or an insecticide registered for “outdoor use” may not legally be used inside a building.

For a list of restricted use pesticides, see the Restricted Use Products Report.

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Would the changes impact pesticide use in and around my home by a professional pest control applicator, if they are finalized?

Yes, if restricted use pesticides are being used, the stronger certification standards would apply for pesticide applicators who are certified to apply them. Also, because most states already require commercial applicators, such as professional pest control workers, to be certified whether or not they use RUPs, a pesticide applicator you hire, under the proposed rule, would likely have to demonstrate they meet the new competency standards that emphasize safe practices.

How does EPA ensure the safety of pesticides? What kind of restrictions does EPA place on pesticide use?

EPA takes very seriously our duty to ensure that, when used according to label instructions, pesticides can be used safely. We rely on risk assessment processes to evaluate the potential for human health and environmental impacts from pesticide use, and to make decisions about pesticide regulation, both new and existing. New pesticides must be evaluated before they can enter the market. EPA uses extensive human health and environmental fate and effects data to determine specific requirements on the label. Existing pesticides must be re-evaluated periodically to ensure that they continue to meet current safety standards.

How did EPA develop the revisions?

EPA has been engaging stakeholders both formally and informally on ideas for the proposal since the 1990s. EPA has received extensive feedback and developed the revisions with input from state regulatory partners and other organizations and individuals through numerous stakeholder meetings and other outreach. This proposal is a synthesis of the feedback received.

What are next steps for finalizing the rule?

After the public comment period, EPA will review and consider the public comments, and where needed, will change the proposed requirements. EPA will draft the final regulation which will be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of Management and Budget. When these reviews are complete, the EPA will issue the final regulation.





Certified Applicators

Strengthen competency standards for private applicators to cover content necessary for safe application of RUPs, similar to commercial applicator core competency plus agricultural pest control

Establish certification categories for certain application methods (soil fumigation, non-soil fumigation, aerial application) for private and commercial applicators

Establish a mandatory 3-year certification period for private and commercial applicators and minimum requirements for recertification programs (continuing education or retest)

Eliminate special process to allow non-readers to be certified as private applicators

Noncertified Applicators Working Under the Direct Supervision of Certified Applicators

Require pesticide safety training for noncertified applicators using RUPs similar to the training for handlers under the Worker Protection Standard (safety, proper pesticide application techniques, responding to spills, protecting oneself, others and the environment)

Exemption from the training requirement for those with valid WPS training and those who have passed the commercial core exam

Require the supervising applicator to provide specific instructions related to application and ensure that the noncertified applicator has a copy of the labeling at the time of application require supervising certified applicator to provide means for immediate communication with noncertified applicator

Minimum Age

Require all persons using restricted use pesticides to be at least 18 years old (private applicators, commercial applicators, noncertified applicators)

Program Administration

Require candidates for certification and recertification to present identification


Certified Applicators

Private applicator competency standards cover 5 general topics

Private applicators: no categories of certification

Commercial applicators: no additional certification to use certain application methods

No federal requirements for recertification (timeframe or content)

Non-readers can be certified to use restricted use pesticides under a special process administered by the State

Noncertified Applicators Working Under the Direct Supervision of Certified Applicators

No requirement for instruction in safety, proper pesticide application techniques, responding to spills, protecting oneself, others and the environment

Supervising applicator must provide general guidance on applying a specific pesticide

Supervising applicator must provide noncertified applicator with instructions on how to contact the supervisor in the event he or she is needed

Minimum Age

No minimum age to use restricted use pesticides

Program Administration

No identification required for persons seeking certification to apply restricted use pesticides