Pennsylvania Rural Health Farm Worker Protection Safety Program
- Need: Agricultural producers and Pennsylvania's diverse farmworker population needed guidance on complying with Environmental Protection Agency regulations on the safe use of pesticides used in agricultural production.
- Intervention: An outreach education program providing compliance and technical assistance for growers was developed which included culturally appropriate training materials targeted to workers.
- Results: Pesticide use training and other farm safety information is now readily available to Pennsylvania's farmers and farmworkers.
The Pennsylvania Rural Health Farm Worker Protection Safety Program provides agricultural producers with technical and compliance assistance with the EPA's Worker Protection Standard (WPS) for Agricultural Pesticides regulation. According to Lisa Davis, director of the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH), it is the only program of its kind in the nation.
The program places emphasis on the development of culturally-relevant training materials for the state's Anabaptist farmers (such as the Amish and Mennonite) and foreign-born workers. One of the program's major efforts is making individual visits to mushroom farms, orchards, Christmas tree farms, and greenhouses across the state. Another central effort is assisting growers and their employees with the implementation of WPS into their agricultural operations.
Notes Jim Harvey, the Pennsylvania Rural Health Farm Worker Protection Safety Specialist, "The primary emphasis of this program is to help growers understand and implement the Worker Protection Standard regulation and the related pesticide safety information. The program also gives staff an opportunity to remind growers of general farm safety dangers, and share information about other lesser-known safety regulations. One of the distinguishing marks of this program is the development of training materials for Pennsylvania's diverse farm labor. Materials are produced for the general population, the Anabaptist (Amish and Old Order Mennonite) populations and the Hispanic worker."
The program's website includes adaptable information, including a program brochure and access to training materials. The program has commodity-relevant materials such as training DVDs for agricultural workers and handlers in English and Spanish. These visual training aides were developed for the following six agricultural specialties: mushrooms, orchards, vegetables, grapes, greenhouses, and nursery growers. The DVDs have been approved by the EPA, and comply with the revised WPS basic safety training requirements for workers involved with agricultural pesticides. The newly revised training DVDs are free to Pennsylvania growers. Growers in other states can stream the DVDs by accessing PORH's Agriculture Safety & Health site.
The program is coordinated by PORH in collaboration with the Penn State pesticide and safety experts. It is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industry.
The program offers:
- Group presentations on WPS compliance
- On-site assessments of WPS compliance prior to a regulatory inspection
- Training assistance for agricultural handlers and workers using language-appropriate resources
Additional outreach services provided by program staff includes:
- Informational resources for a wide range of farm safety information
- Informational resources for accessing affordable quality health insurance via the Health Insurance Marketplace
The Rural Health Farm Worker Protection Safety Specialist has conducted compliance assistance visits for more than 1,000 farms, greenhouses, nurseries, and orchards since 2006. Visits have also been made to approximately 3,000 other growers to provide awareness of the EPA's pesticide use regulation. For those growers who have had a full compliance visit, the Specialist will usually perform two follow-up, drop-by visits.
Dave Scott, retired Chief of the Division of Health and Safety in the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industries and the former project officer for the grant stated, "Our mutually beneficial partnership with the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health provides the Department with a vital link to the migrant community and rural health clinics. PORH has access to and the trust of rural communities, allowing them to take our message into areas where we have limited access."
It is essential that the program staff earn the trust of both the agricultural grower and the state regulatory agency that enforces the WPS.
Program specialist Jim Harvey offers the following advice to those interested in replicating this program: "Be honest, be concerned and be willing to learn."
Contact InformationJim Harvey, Farm Worker Protection Safety Specialist
Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health
Agricultural health and safety
Farmers and farmworkers
January 14, 2014
Date updated or reviewed
April 22, 2019
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.