Pesticide Safety – From Start to Finish

By: Andy Muza, Penn State Extension Educator – Erie County

The winter months are a good time to compile and READ information pertaining to pesticide safety because there is a lot to consider.

Pesticide Safety involves a series of steps which includes: Planning; Transporting; Loading/Mixing; Application; Cleaning (sprayer, containers, clothing); Disposal, Storage; Recordkeeping; and Worker Protection. Each step is equally important.

PLANNING

This step should be the most time consuming and thought out process which takes into account all of the subsequent steps. The planning process should begin well before the spraying season begins.

Considerations:

  • Pesticide Applicator Certification –  Do you plan to use any RESTRICTED USE pesticides in the upcoming season or apply pesticides to property that you do not own/rent?  If you do, then you must have a certified applicators license. I suggest obtaining a license regardless if the pesticides to be used are RESTRICTED USE or not. Information on pesticide certification can be found at Certification & Exams.
  • Pest Problems – What were your pest problems in the previous season(s)?
  • Pesticides – What pesticides should you purchase this season that will have the greatest efficacy for these pest problems? Don’t base decisions solely on cost of pesticides. Cheapest doesn’t mean most effective. Consider using: New York and Pennsylvania Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Do you have required PPE for pesticides to be purchased? READ the LABEL for specifics. The label provides the minimum PPE required for each pesticide but you have the option to wear more (e.g., Face shield/protective glasses, unlined rubber boots, chemical resistant gloves (nitrile, butyl, neoprene) and apron, respirator).
  • Recordkeeping – What records should you keep? Pesticide application records are required by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for RESTRICTED USE. However, for worker protection and your own information and safety, keep records of all pesticide applications. Pesticide labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) should be kept with your spray records.
  • Accidental Pesticide Poisoning – Pesticide Labels and MSDS sheets have first aid information. Keep National Poison Center and Emergency Phone Numbers handy. Calling the toll-free National Poison Center hotline (1-800-222-1222) will connect you to the nearest poison center. Please read the Emergency Phone Numbers Form.
  • Pesticide Spill/Fire – Know what to do if a pesticide spill/fire occurs. Purchase spill kit(s) and fire extinguisher(s), and have local fire department number. Contact local fire department personnel for specific protocol concerning fire and pesticides. Keep an inventory of all pesticides in storage.  Please see How to Handle Chemical Spills for a review on what to do with regards to chemical spills.
  • Emergency Phone List – Emercency Contact Information for Pesticide Spills

TRANSPORTING

During transport bring along PPE, Spill Kit, Fire Extinguisher and Shovel. Pesticides should be secured in a separate compartment from the driver. You can review information on how to properly transport pesticides in Pennsylvania through the following Part I: Transporting Pesticides in Pennsylvania and Part II: Transporting Pesticides in Pennsylvania, Part 2

LOADING/MIXING

During the loading and mixing of pesticides there is a greater risk of accidental poisoning since pesticides are in a concentrated form.

APPLICATION

Before any application, be sure to check that equipment is in proper working order (i.e., hoses, pumps, nozzles, etc.).  Refer to the New York and Pennsylvania Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes (Chapter 7 – Sprayer Technology).

  • Calibrate Sprayer – sprayers should be calibrated at a minimum the beginning of each season. Preferably 2 – 3 times/season as crop canopy increases. Consider using spray cards, or fluorescent tracers to check spray coverage.  You can refer to Sprayer Calibration Information and the following videos for more information:
  • Calibration of Airblast Sprayers for Vineyards: Part 1 – Selecting and Changing Nozzles. U.S. version by Andrew Landers – Cornell University for more information.
  • Calibration of Airblast Sprayers for Vineyards: Part 2 – Measuring Liquid Flow. U.S. version by Andrew Landers – Cornell University.
  • Pesticide Application Technology
  • Be Aware of: Pesticide registrations, Preharvest Intervals, and Reentry Intervals: New York and Pennsylvania Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes and the National Pesticide Information Retrieval System (NPIRS) have good information for growers.
  • Monitor weather conditions.
  • Use appropriate gallonage, speed, pressure, nozzles for type of application and size of canopy.
  • AVOID DRIFT.

CLEANING (sprayer, containers, clothing)

DISPOSAL

CHEMSWEEP Pesticide Disposal Program provides information for pesticide disposal practices.

STORAGE

Information for how to properly store pesticides can be found at: Pesticide Storage and Security

RECORDKEEPING 

Pesticide application records are required by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for RESTRICTED USE materials. However, for worker protection and your own information and safety, keep records of all pesticide applications.  Below are a couple of resources for adequate recordkeeping:

Record keeping information pertaining to “Chemical Labels and MSDS Sheets”

WORKER PROTECTION STANDARD

The Worker Protection Standard has recently been revised. For information concerning revisions see the EPA’s Worker Protection Standard website.
Information compiled from the sites provided above will provide plenty of reading material over the winter months and assure that Pesticide Safety – from start to finish is accomplished.

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