May 20, 2021

EPA Extends Option to Delay Annual Fit Testing for Agricultural Pesticide Handlers

On May 7, EPA announced it was extending a provision of its temporary guidance concerning respirator fit testing for agricultural workers and workers who handle pesticides. The agency's amended guidance (PDF) allows agricultural pesticide handlers who received respirator fit tests during 2019 or 2020 to delay annual fit testing until Sept. 30, 2021. Previously, EPA's guidance (PDF) included the option to delay annual respirator fit testing until the end of 2020. The option is intended to help ease demand for filtering facepiece respirators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amendment does not waive the annual fit test requirement. Affected workers must continue to use the make and model of respirator they were last fit tested for, must have received respirator training during the previous 12 months, and must not have undergone significant physiological changes that might affect the seal between the respirator and their face, such as weight loss or facial surgery.

EPA’s temporary guidance urges employers and workers to comply with respiratory protection guidance provided by personal protective equipment manufacturers and federal agencies. EPA advises employers and pesticide handlers to use alternative PPE approved by NIOSH to provide at least the same level of respiratory protection or to use pesticide products that do not require handlers to wear PPE, if possible, before considering options that do not comply with official respiratory protection requirements, such as delaying fit testing.

The rest of EPA’s June 2020 temporary guidance remains in effect. More information about the guidance is available in a previous news article published by AIHA. For further details, see EPA’s temporary guidance statement (PDF) or the recent amendment (PDF).