Pesticide exposure creates risks for farm workers

Farmers in Alabama fill an important role in many of the nation’s industries, and protecting crops from harmful insects is one part of producing quality products. Although these chemicals are tested and approved for use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out that without proper protection, exposure or inappropriate use may cause work-related illnesses. Poisoning from insecticides and other toxins sends thousands of agricultural workers to the doctor every year.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employees must be trained in how to act safely around pesticides or the employer may be guilty of an OSHA violation. Anyone at risk of exposure to toxins should know what to do in the event of a medical emergency. Some chemicals could contaminate nearby water sources, so that workers who wash their hands in an irrigation canal may be at risk. Those who do not wash their hands after handling plants or who eat in a field that has been treated may also be in danger of being poisoned.

Pesticides can travel through the air and affect workers in adjacent fields, and may also leave residues on the ground nearby. Workers should understand decontamination procedures and have the resources necessary to perform these. In addition to receiving education about the chemicals, agricultural workers should learn what personal protective equipment is necessary and how it should be worn. For example, the application of some pesticides requires a respirator. Employers must follow OSHA guidelines and the Worker Protection Standard to protect agricultural workers from serious health consequences.

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