Getting a Handle on Pesticides

October 10, 2002 - 09:34

Find out how to properly store and handle pesticides.

Pesticides used today are less toxic and used less
frequently than several years ago. Nevertheless, they can be a serious hazard
to employees if not stored and used properly.


Store pesticides in a room located away from eating areas,
boiler rooms or fertilizer storage or in a separate building located downhill
from water supply or production areas. The floor should be concrete; walls
should be constructed of non-combustible materials; doors should have a sill to
contain spills. Another way to contain spills is to construct a dike around the

Provide forced ventilation that either operates continuously
or starts automatically when interior lights are turned on. Locate the mixing
area so spills will not contaminate stored chemicals. Prevent siphoning
chemicals into the water supply with a backflow preventer on your water
supplies. If you do locate your pesticide storage facility in a greenhouse or
service building, locate it on an outside wall so it is directly accessible.
Keep it away from break areas, offices and fertilizer storage. It should not be
near oil, L.P. gas, oxygen or acetylene storage and should also be away from
furnaces and boiler rooms. Small quantities (i.e., less than 200 pounds of dry
material and/or 25 gallons of liquid pesticide) of chemicals may be stored in a
separate room in an existing building. If the room has windows, block them to
keep out sunlight, which can deteriorate the chemicals. Very small quantities
of chemicals, no more than will fit in a cabinet, may be stored in a metal
cabinet anywhere in the facility. Separate different types of chemicals such as
fungicides, insecticides and herbicides.

Keep all storage facilities locked. Only allow access to
persons who are required to use the facility. Do not hang the key near the
door, and post a sign identifying the storage facility contents on the outside
of the building, room or cabinet.


It is important to document proper use and disposal of all chemicals.
A log should be kept to record purchases, use and disposal of all pesticides.
Take inventory of pesticides at least once each year, keeping the amount on
hand equal to the total of all purchases, minus the amounts used or disposed

Keep complete records of all pesticide applications. Records
are legally required for restricted-use pesticides. Each record should list the
date and time of application and the name of the pesticide. Also list the total
amount applied, rate of application, type of equipment used, crop
treated and formulation. In addition, the record should describe the area
treated, weather conditions, the target pest and the name of the applicator.
Keep these records for a minimum of three years. Record and carefully investigate
any complaints of exposure to pesticides or possible pesticide poisoning.


It is the employer's responsibility to make certain
protective equipment is being used properly, not to merely make such items
available. Select protective equipment based on the manufacturer's
recommendations listed on the label and in the material safety data sheet
(MSDS). At a minimum, an applicator should wear a long-sleeved shirt, long
trousers, and chemical-resistant rubber gloves and footwear when mixing,
transferring or applying pesticides. A chemical-resistant hat should be worn
when spraying overhead. It is important that the equipment fits the employee
and is properly adjusted. Goggles or a face shield are also recommended when
mixing. A respirator may also be required, especially if powders are being

Keep personal protective equipment outside the chemical
storage area. Make soap, water and paper towels available at the mixing site.
An emergency shower facility is also a good idea along with eyewash facilities
connected to the domestic water supply. However, portable eyewash facilities
are acceptable if they provide a 15-minute supply of running water.

Replace respirator cartridges as specified by the
manufacturer, and keep them clean by storing them in plastic bags. This also
prevents the cartridge from becoming worn out due to pesticide, oil or gasoline
vapors in the air. Some cartridges also have expiration indicators built in
that change color to indicate they are worn out.

In hot weather, Tyvek suits, aprons and respirators can be
very hot. Schedule frequent breaks to prevent heat-related illness. Try to
schedule spraying early in the day when it will be cooler. Though it is cooler
toward evening, spraying at this time may lead to disease development because
plants remain wet all night. Rotating applications helps because no one has to
be wearing the equipment for a long period of time.


Post emergency phone numbers in storage and mixing areas,
and make sure all employees know who in the company to notify in case of an
emergency. Inform employees of the number to call or where to take an injured
employee if no one in management is available. Keeping all records of pesticide
storage and use outside the chemical storage area will help employees better
communicate with emergency technicians.

Treated areas in greenhouses must be posted for the
protection of workers. All normal entrances must be posted with an approved
warning sign. The standard size of the sign is 14 x 16 inches, but
smaller-sized signs may be used. See your supplier or insurance company, or
contact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for samples of approved
warning signs and details on the use of smaller signs. The signs
should list the date and time the area can be re-entered.

Re-entry time will vary from four hours to several days,
depending on the pesticide used. No one should be allowed in the area prior to
that time without complete protective equipment. There are certain exceptions
(check with the EPA or USDA), but even then, re-entry is only allowed under
specified conditions, and a special form must be completed and mailed to the
EPA. See your insurance company loss control representative, state EPA or
extension agent for details about any exception.


The best and safest way to dispose of pesticides is to buy
only as much as is needed and apply it all to crops listed on the label.

Some pesticides may be disposed of through a regular
disposal service. Others must be disposed of by licensed hazardous waste
haulers in special landfills or incinerators. Never burn pesticides or dump
pesticide concentrates on the ground. Try to use rinse water from spray tanks
in future spray mixes, but be careful not to incorporate herbicide-contaminated
rinse water on sensitive plants. Rinse water may be disposed of on your own
property only if the label explicitly permits it.

[if !supportEmptyParas] [endif]

If the label specifies triple-rinsing of pesticide
containers for disposal, use the following procedure:

1. Fill
the container 10 percent full with rinse water.

2. Pour
the rinse water into a spray tank.

3. Repeat
twice more.

4. Fill
spray tank to the proper water level.

5. Puncture
or crush metal or plastic pesticide containers.

6. Triple-rinsed
containers may generally be disposed of in regular refuse collections, but
check with state and local authorities first.

About The Author

Bob Decker is assistant vice president of Loss Control Engineering at Hortica, insurance specialists for the horticulture industry. He can be reached by phone at (800) 851-7740 or E-mail

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