OSHA seminars foster pesticide safety

Mitch Lies/For the Capital Press Garnet Cooke, a compliance officer with the Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division, will be presenting three four-hour pesticide safety seminars at the Northwest Agricultural Show. Cooke said she works hard to make the sessions interesting. “We try to make it fun,” she said.

Over the years, Garnet Cooke and Lori Cohen, OSHA compliance officers who present training sessions to farmers on pesticide safety, have resorted to many tactics to interest audiences.

One year they put on a play, where Cooke depicted a compliance officer and Cohen a grower.

“We got a lot of laughs,” Cooke said.

“Basically, we try to mix it up so that if someone comes every year, they are always getting something different.

“And we try to make it fun,” Cooke said.

“We don’t stand up there and say this rule says this and that rule says that,” Cooke said. “We engage with them and we show a lot of pictures of places we’ve been.

“When I was at this one farm, I actually squealed and grabbed my camera when the farmer opened the storage shed. It was a terrible mess with pesticide containers dumped everywhere,” she said. “I thought, this will be great for training.”

Cooke said she also shows pictures of proper pesticide storage.

“People want to see proper usage,” she said. “When you compare the two, it is it really apparent what is good and what is not.”

Cooke and Cohen will be providing three four-hour sessions on pesticide safety at the Northwest Agricultural Show, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day of the show.

Topics will include proper use of respirators, hazard communication and Worker Protection Standard training for employees, changes that are in store for the Worker Protection Standard and how to avoid heat illnesses. Sessions also will include information on practical solutions to common pesticide problems, such as decontaminating enclosed cabs, what to do with old chemicals, how to seal shelves and floors in pesticide storage areas.

Growers obtain continuing education credits for participating in the sessions.

Cooke, who started providing pesticide training sessions in the early 1990s, said she has witnessed a change in grower attitudes over the years, both toward the sessions and toward pesticide safety in general.

“Growers today want the information because they are not getting it anywhere else,” she said. “They want to know how to use pesticides safely. Their attitude has changed.

“Initially, people were hesitant to go to conferences led by OSHA,” she said.

Cooke said she and Cohen are busier now than ever.

“Last year we did 21 (training sessions), and attendance was very high for the most part,” she said.

Recommended for you