Texas Worker Protection Law
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Texas Worker Protection Law

What is the Texas Agricultural Hazard Communication Law?

The Texas Agricultural Hazard Communication law, which become effective in 1988, was enacted to help protect the people who live and work in agricultural area from the possible dangers of pesticide exposure. Also known as the "Right-to-Know" (RTK) law, it is designed to protect agricultural employees by providing education and access to pesticide information from employers who meet certain criteria. The Texas RTK law was passed before the federal Worker Protection Standard. Differences in these laws are explained later in this brochure.

Which employers are covered by this law?

Agricultural employers must meet two thresholds to be covered under the RTK law. They must:

  • use and/or store pesticides in excess of 55 gallons or 500 pounds annually; and
  • have a minimum gross annual payroll of $15,000 for migrant/seasonal workers or $50,000 for permanent employees.

What protections does the law offer agricultural workers?

It gives the workers the right to:

  • receive crop sheets from covered employers;
  • be informed about pesticides applied to the fields where they will be working;
  • name an individual or organization to represent an individual worker when trying to obtain pesticide information from the covered employer;
  • obtain a list of pesticides used at the workplace from the employer; and
  • not be disciplined or punished in any way for exercising their rights.

What are crop sheets?

Crop sheets provide the farm worker with general pesticide health and safety information and list the most commonly used pesticides for each crop. Covered employers must hand out an appropriate crop sheet to each agricultural laborer who cannot provide proof of pesticide safety training before he or she enters the field or other treated area to perform hand labor. The crop sheets must be read aloud to the workers. Workers who have received training may also request crop sheets, and employers must provide them.

What is a Material Safety Data Sheet?

A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) specifically identifies the chemical and its ingredients and provides health, safety and emergency information about it. A registrant, chemical manufacturer or distributor must provide the most current appropriate MSDS to any person in the state to whom he or she distributes a covered pesticide.

What is the Workplace Chemical List?

The workplace chemical list (WCL) is a record that covered employers must keep of all applications made at the workplace in excess of the threshold amount. All applicable crop sheets and the corresponding MSDS for each chemical listed must accompany the WCL as an attachment. TDA provides a form on which these records may be kept. The employer must maintain these records for 30 years or send them to TDA headquarters annually.

Who has access to the WCL?

Covered employers are required to allow workers they employ or their representatives to view the WCL and attachments. Additionally, members of the surrounding community will have access to the list. A member of the community is defined as a person who works, lives, goes to school, stays in a nursing home or hospital within 1/4-mile of the covered employer's workplace.

What is a designated representative?

A designated representative is a person or organization to whom an agricultural worker gives written authorization to exercise the worker's rights under this law. A designated representative may become certified by submitting a request to TDA.

What is the emergency response provision of the law?

This provision applies to any person or any (not only "covered employers" as defined above) that stores more than 55 gallons or 500 pounds of pesticides within 1/4-mile of a residential area more than 72 hours. If these storage criteria are met, the covered entity must notify the local fire chief in writing of the name and telephone numbers of representatives to contact for further information. Upon request by the fire chief, they must provide copies of the Workplace Chemical List and attachments and allow inspection of the storage area.

Does the law require that workers receive pesticide safety training?

The law charges the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and the Texas Cooperative Extension with providing pesticide safety training for farm workers in selected counties and publicizing its availability. TDA revised the Right-to-Know regulations in 1994 to incorporate the federal Worker Protection Standard pesticide safety training content, making it valid to cover both Texas and federal requirements at the same time. A valid EPA WPS Training Verification Card presented to an employer is proof of training under both federal and state regulations.

How does the RTK compare to the federal Worker Protection Standard (WPS)?

The federal worker protection standard covers virtually every agricultural employer who uses pesticides in the production of an agricultural commodity and hires workers or handlers. The employer is not limited by any payroll or pesticide use/storage amounts. However, any agricultural employer who is complying with the federal WPS is considered to be in compliance with the Texas RTK if the employer complies with these additional, more stringent RTK requirements:

  • recognizes the use of a designated representative by an agricultural worker;
  • compiles, maintains and provides a Workplace Chemical List (WCL) and attachments;
  • obtains material safety data sheets (MSDS) from the pesticide dealer for every chemical listed on WCL;
  • does not refuse to hire a worker solely because he/she has not completed a training program or cannot produce a verification card;
  • provides and reads appropriate crop sheets to untrained workers or those that cannot produce a verification card;
  • notifies the local fire chief about chemicals stored more than 72 hours at the workplace.