–by Frannie Miller
This growing season may be a challenge for producers/applicators in more ways than one. With the critical need for N95 respirators for health care workers, it is anticipated that applicators may experience a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) that will be available to use this growing season if not previously purchased. It is important to remember pesticides may not be applied without the label-required PPE. The Environmental Protection Agency has not issued any exemption or relaxation of the PPE label requirements, therefore some herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides you plan to use may require the use of N95 type respirators.
It is important to review the labels of products which are key to your operations and plan accordingly. If required PPE is unavailable for purchase, users may need to select alternative products or management methods. Research to see if there is a product available with the same active ingredient, whose formulation type reduces the need for respiratory protection. The other alternative is applicators are allowed to use more protective gear, so if you have a half or full-face respirator with a N95 filter that you have had fit-tested and received a medical evaluation to use this may be a good alternative.
Do not put yourself at risk by not following the label PPE requirements because you are having difficulty finding PPE. This could potentially add to the need for medical care and is in direct violation of the label, so please have a plan for how you will deal with this issue.