Notification of Pesticide Applications to Minimize Workplace Exposures

Farmworker exposure to agricultural pesticide drift is a high priority concern for public health. In May 2014, the Washington Department of Health (WA DOH) alerted state agencies and growers of a spike in pesticide spray drift illness cases among orchard workers. Over a two-month period, approximately 60 individuals were exposed to pesticides in 15 drift events, which is equal to the number of cases that the agency normally sees over the course of an entire year. In response, there have been calls for improved communication among farms, applicators, and workers. A recent CDC/NIOSH report documented one of these drift events.
We conducted a systematic review of pesticide spray notification systems throughout the world, with the goal of addressing the needs of Washington State orchards. Telephone interviews, emails, and program websites were used to review residential and commercial notification systems used in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, China, Canada, and the United States (see attached report). Direct notification methods such as sign posting, telephone calls, and personal visits have been used for a long time in the agricultural industry. Recent advancements in mobile communications technologies, precision agriculture, and farm data analytics have made remote notification methods more user-friendly. Assuming that costs, work burdens, and legal liabilities are minimized, a remote farm-to-farm spray notification system appears to be a promising means by which to prevent farmworker exposure to pesticide drift. Future work is needed by a coalition of partners (farm owners and managers, farmworker groups, research and education communities, and state agencies) to engage stakeholders and determine how to best develop agricultural workplace spray notification systems.
Principal Investigator: Richard Fenske, PhD, MPH
Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
University of Washington 

Washington State MAAF 2012-2014

Partners and Advisories
Washington State Department Of Health
Kasner E. J., Fenske R. A., Galvin K., Yost M. G., Palmández, P.  Review of Agricultural Spray Notification Systems. 2016 Technical Report. Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington.