EPA Ending Temporary COVID-19 Guidance

Just yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the termination of it’s June 2020 COVID-19 temporary guidance, as well as its May 2021 amendment effective next Thursday, August 19, 2021.

Basic Overview:

The original June 2020 temporary guidance was a response to shortages of personal protective equipment due to COVID-19, and offered necessary flexibility to keep agricultural employers and pesticide handlers working and compliant with the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS).

Now, according to the EPA, access to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved respirators, fit-testing supplies, and provisions of related services have improved, and other government safety agencies have already started updating their policies (see below for more details). 

Upon termination on August 19, the EPA will revert to all standard practices employed prior to COVID-19.

If you own a business that employs agricultural workers or handlers, easily keep all of your employees WPS compliant with our online safety training program.

Deep Dive:

Here’s a more detailed summary of why the EPA is terminating this guidance.

On April 9, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its “Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators,” which recommends that healthcare facilities:

  • Stop purchasing and using non-NIOSH-approved respirators
  • Not store previously decontaminated respirators
  • Promptly resume conventional practices instead of using crisis capacity strategies

On June 30, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked its emergency use authorizations and issued revised guidance advising healthcare personnel and facilities to transition from using crisis capacity strategies as a means of conserving disposable filtering facepiece respirators and from using non-NIOSH-approved disposable respirators (such as KN95s).

Most recently, on July 7, 2021, OSHA issued a memorandum titled “Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” that included policy changes regarding enforcement discretion for periodic respiratory protection equipment shortages and associated constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To be consistent with these actions, the EPA is terminating its temporary guidance regarding respiratory protection for agricultural handlers and handler employers.