Multiple agencies meet to discuss pesticide issues

Scenes from the 2016 Pesticide Symposium
Scenes from the 2016 OR OSHA Pesticide Symposium

Pesticides are a commonly used tool for the control of a variety of pests, including weeds, bacteria, insects, rodents and molds, and represent a potential health risk to those who use them. Oregon OSHA is actively involved in ensuring that safe work practices with pesticides are followed, and provides a variety of educational and consultation services in this regard. Last week, Oregon OSHA sponsored the 2016 Oregon Pesticide Symposium, which was held March 15-16 at the Chemeketa Community College’s Eola Viticulture Center in Salem. More than 20 educational and public agencies participated in this year’s symposium.

One issue discussed is one in which OSHA’s pesticide coordinator Garnet Cooke has been working tirelessly to resolve. Her talk, titled Decoding Respirator Language On Pesticide Labels, pointed out serious inconsistencies in label language that has created confusion to those trying to follow the law. Garnet has created a clarifying document for respirator use, which will soon be posted on the Oregon OSHA website, and is working with federal agencies to resolve respirator labeling issues.

Another highlight of this year’s symposium was a panel discussion of pesticide use on cannabis and Oregon’s ongoing efforts to implement new regulations governing the cannabis industry. Who are the regulatory players and how are they implementing law? What pesticides are approved for use and how does that list compare to what we’re finding on cannabis products? What outreach services do growers need? How do we ensure the safety of on-site inspectors, who may be exposed to a variety of electrical, chemical and physical hazards? And, what are the legal hurdles to overcome regarding federal versus state law, and how do state employees navigate this maze? These questions and more will all take time to answer as the cannabis industry and its regulation evolves.

These are only a sampling of highlights from this year’s symposium, which brought together a wide diversity of groups concerned with pesticide use in Oregon. Kudos to Garnet Cook and Oregon OSHA for spearheading this annual event.