Online Program

Policy exclusions and unequal protection for vulnerable workers. Is regulatory change on the way?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 10:45 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Amy K. Liebman, MPA, MA, Migrant Clinicians Network, Salisbury, MD
Nearly 45 years ago, the federal government took a regulatory interest in protecting the health and safety of workers.  The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 established OSHA and  set out to ensure all men and women have a safe place to work.  Farmworkers advocated for OSHA to set workplace standards to protect them.  However, a court ruling said the US EPA is responsible for regulating protections for farmworkers exposure to pesticides and Congress forbids OSHA from using federal dollars to enforce the health and safety regulations on farms with fewer than 11 workers.  OSHA has promulgated few standards for farmworkers and for agriculture in general. The EPA, the agency in charge of pesticide policy, is responsible for the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the primary regulation to protect workers from pesticide exposure. Excluded from many OSHA many standards, hired agricultural workers, who are largely immigrant workers employed in one of our nation’s most hazardous industries, are provided weaker protections than other workers. Weaker health and safety policies for farmworkers builds on a history of systematic exclusions  of agricultural workers from labor protections.  In 2014 the US EPA set out to strengthen the WPS and regulatory change is likely.  This presentation will overview the history of agricultural expceptionalism in federal policy, review the proposed changes in WPS, examine if proposed policy changes will offer workers parity and discuss the effective routes for the protection of workers in agriculture.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Describe one way in which a federal law excludes agricultural workers from health and safety protections. Differentiate between the current EPA regulations for farmworkers exposed to pesticides and proposed revisions to EPA’s worker protection standard.

Keyword(s): Food Safety, Occupational Health and Safety

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conducted the research that will be presented in this session. I have been involved in worker health and safety for a number of years, am the director of occupational and environmental health for the Migrant Clinicians Network, and current chair of APHA's Occupational Health & Safety Section.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.