Handling Pesticides Safely
As you know, pesticides are very important to the agricultural industry and are quite effective when people use them correctly. However, you must be very careful about how you handle these chemicals as well as how you transport, store, mix, load, apply, and dispose of them. Employees need to know the potential risks of using agricultural chemicals. You should only use these materials if you have received training and authorization to do so. Employees must not enter areas treated with an agricultural chemical until your state’s re-entry requirement and the chemical manufacturer’s recommendations on the label allow re-entry. If you have questions about safe re-entry requirements, ask your supervisor.
Store Pesticides Properly
It is very important and the law requires that pesticides are stored in a safe, secure and well-identified place.
- Store pesticides in a properly labeled container with the label clearly visible. Never store pesticides in old bottles or food containers where they could be mistaken for food or drink for people or animals.
- Never store pesticides near food, feed, or seed.
- Store pesticides in containers that you can tightly seal. Check the containers regularly to make sure they have no leaks, breaks, tears, or defects.
- Store pesticides in a location away from freezing temperatures or extreme heat.
- Store ALL pesticides under lock and key at all times. Clearly mark the building, room, or structure where you store them with pesticide warning signs.
Mix and Load Pesticides Properly
Many injuries occur when people are mixing chemicals. The most dangerous pesticide job is pouring and mixing the concentrated chemicals.
- READ the LABEL before you begin to mix the chemical.
- Put on protective clothing (coveralls, gloves, boots, goggles or face shield, hat, and respirator if the label indicates you must wear one) before handling a pesticide.
- Mix the pesticides outdoors where there is good ventilation and light.
- Stand upwind of the pesticide to avoid contaminating yourself.
- Use a specifically designated sharp knife to open pesticide bags; do not use scissors, a personal knife, or tear bags open.
- Measure accurately, using only the amount specified on the label. It is illegal to use more than the label directs.
- Keep the storage container below eye level to avoid splashing or spilling the pesticide into your face and eyes when you are removing concentrated material from the container.
- Stop immediately if you splash or spill a pesticide. Remove your contaminated clothing and wash thoroughly with soap and water. Speed is essential when you or your clothing is contaminated. Remember also to clean up the spill.
Apply Pesticides Properly
Careful attention to simple guidelines during pesticide mixing and application will greatly increase your ability to control the pest and will make your job much safer for you and those around you.
- READ THE LABEL before applying a pesticide and put on the required protective clothing.
- Check the equipment for leaking hoses or connections, plugged or worn nozzles, and examine the filter to see that it is clean and free of debris.
- Clear all livestock, pets, and people from the area you are going to treat. Calibrate your equipment before you begin to use it to ensure the proper amount is coming out.
- Mix the pesticide at the recommended rate and apply it at the specified dosage. Make sure the measurement device you use is a proper, commercially designed device for applying pesticides. Do not guess at the measurement. Apply pesticides only at the correct time and under favorable weather conditions. Never apply a pesticide if the wind will cause the pesticide to drift out of the area to be treated.
- Use extreme care to prevent the pesticide from contaminating streams, ponds, lakes or other bodies of water.
As with any safe handling training, it is important to know what you can do to prevent exposure to a toxic substance. The following are pointers about pesticide exposure.
Never Eat, Drink, or Smoke Around Pesticides
Do not carry cigarettes in your pockets, nor eat nor drink while working with pesticides. Your cigarettes can absorb pesticide film or residue that could make you sick. Also, be careful not to wipe your face with your shirtsleeves. This could put the pesticide directly onto your bare skin.
There are four ways that pesticides can enter the body: through the skin, the mouth, the nose, and the eyes. Pesticides can enter your body in solid, liquid, or gaseous form. It is particularly important to remember that highly concentrated and highly toxic chemicals — especially liquids and gases – pose the greatest danger. If you do not wash them off immediately, the liquid concentrates can penetrate your unbroken skin. The longer a pesticide remains on your skin or in your eyes, or the longer you inhale it, the greater the damage that is likely to occur. Protective clothing, such as coveralls, aprons, boots, gloves, goggles and face shields, and respirators provide protection against exposure to these chemicals.
Absorption through the skin is the most common form of poisoning. Absorption may occur from a splash, spill or drift when mixing, loading, applying, or disposing of pesticides. It may also result from exposure to large amounts of residue while cleaning out clogged nozzles and filter screens. Generally, powders, dusts and granular pesticides that can be wet are not as easily absorbed thorough the skin and other body tissues as are the liquid forms. Again, consistent use of proper protective clothing will greatly reduce the potential risk of pesticide absorption.
If you swallow a pesticide in sufficient amounts, it may cause serious illness, severe injury, or even death. The most frequent cases of accidental oral exposure occur when someone has taken pesticides out of their original labeled container and illegally put them into unlabeled bottles or food containers. For this reason, always store a pesticide in a properly labeled container. If you get a clogged spray line or nozzle, never use your mouth to clear it, and never eat or smoke until you have left the spray area and have washed off thoroughly with soap and water.
If you inhale pesticides in large enough amounts, you can cause serious damage to nose, throat, and lung tissues. Vapors and extremely fine particles are the most serious contributors to respiratory exposure. Wear your respirator while working with powder and liquid pesticides. If you are not sure if you need a respirator, ask your supervisor.
The tissues of the eye are particularly sensitive and absorbent, which means getting pesticides in the eyes brings an immediate threat of loss of sight, illness, or even death. In California, eye protection is required at all times. If pesticides get in your eyes, immediately flush your eyes with clean water for at least 15 minutes.