In response to the increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) created by COVID-19, the Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) has issued a list of Acceptable PPE Alternatives for Handling Pesticides. The expanded list of appropriate alternatives is intended to provide some relief to the agricultural industry as it struggles to acquire the necessary safety supplies amidst the limited availability of N95 respirators.
“It’s not a standard list that we’re used to, so we’re investigating supply houses to see what ones are available,” said Roger Isom, President and CEO of Western Agricultural Processors Association and California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association. “For the most part they’re supposed to be equivalent or better and so that means they’re more expensive.”
The list provided by DPR details the types of respirators that can be used if a pesticide label requires an N95. There are is also suggestions that are detailed for those who are unable to find suitable alternatives to N95 respirators. However, Isom noted that even some of the alternatives appear to be in short supply as well. “We’ve looked into some of them and found that we’re really under some of the same time constraints. We’re not going to be able to get any of them until May or June,” said Isom.
The announcement from DPR regarding alternative safety equipment strictly applies to the requirements for handling pesticides and will not affect other regulations pertaining to respirators. Industry members remain in close contact with the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to try and work toward an agreeable solution to address the limited supply of required safety equipment.
“It still doesn’t address our issue on the dust or the wildfire smoke regulation that Cal/OSHA has under an emergency regulation right now and will be considering next month for a full regulation because those are specific in that they require an N95,” Isom noted. “To this date, Cal/OSHA has not made any kind of determination that would allow for an alternative. So, we’re still pinched here in terms of supply or ability to get supply.”