August 12, 2021

EPA to Sunset Temporary Guidance on Respiratory Protection for Pesticide Handlers

EPA announced on Tuesday that it will terminate its temporary guidance on respiratory protection for agricultural pesticide handlers during COVID-19, effective Aug. 19. The agency cites improvements in access to NIOSH-approved respirators, fit-testing supplies, and related services as the basis for its decision. EPA’s action is consistent with federal agency guidance issued by CDC, OSHA, and the Food and Drug Administration, which urges healthcare facilities to stop using crisis capacity strategies and “promptly resume conventional practices,” including the use of only NIOSH-approved respirators where needed. EPA intends to revert to practices employed prior to the public health emergency once the temporary guidance is terminated.

EPA’s temporary guidance, published in June 2020, addressed the limited availability of respiratory protection options for pesticide handlers in the agricultural sector earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased demand for respirators to protect healthcare workers, fit-testing service closures, and supply chain issues affected the availability of personal protective equipment, fit testing, and chemicals required for respirator fit testing. EPA’s guidance described approaches to address the shortage of required respiratory protection and fit testing. A related amendment published by EPA in May 2021 extended the option to delay annual fit testing for agricultural pesticide handlers. This option was intended to help ease demand for filtering facepiece respirators during the pandemic. EPA is sunsetting both the June 2020 temporary guidance and the May 2021 amendment in their entirety.

EPA’s memorandum addressing the termination of this guidance can be found on the agency’s website (PDF). Additional COVID-19 enforcement and compliance resources are also available.