Know specific safety issues that should be addressed before you or someone you supervise uses a pesticide. Know what factors affect which formulation you should choose for a particular job. Be able to explain what happens when pesticides are used incorrectly. Be able to choose appropriate treatments according to site conditions. Understand what changes you have to make if heat stress is an issue.
Before beginning any pesticide application, you should be able to assess ways to ensure your safety as well as what pesticides to apply and how to apply them.
Safety should always be your number one priority when dealing with a pesticide or when supervising someone who is. There are several questions you can ask and answer to be sure everyone is protected.
What does the label say?
Read it and find out specific instructions as well as precautions. If you don’t understand the labeling, get help and make a plan before you begin and before any one is exposed to the pesticide.
How do I prevent exposure to the pesticide?
Keep any and all personal items away from pesticides including clothes, food, gum, drinks, tobacco or any other consumable items. Any contamination could result in injury.
If you take a break during application, be sure you wash your hands and face thoroughly before consuming food, drink, etc. That means you must wash your gloves while they are still on, then wash hands and face.
Take extra precaution when taking a bathroom break. The genital area absorbs more pesticide than any other skin area. Wash hands thoroughly first.
Be careful also during handling, mixing, cleanup, repair work, transporting, sorting and disposing of pesticides and their containers. All of these instances present the opportunity for exposure to toxic chemicals. Use any necessary equipment to protect yourself during these activities.
What protective equipment should I use?
Follow labels exactly. Pesticide labels will tell you what equipment is required for you and those you supervise. Be sure that you know how to use, clean and maintain the equipment properly. Avoid carelessness in the removal of personal protective equipment. Wiping off sweat or scratching your face could yield serious consequences when wearing the equipment. Also, do not wipe your hands on the outside of your clothes. Your gloves could contain chemicals that could contaminate your clothing.
Is the equipment safe and ready to use?
Establish what equipment you need for a particular job. Then be sure that it is operating correctly, has been cleaned, and that you know how to use it appropriately. Keep children and animals away from it. You are responsible if they are injured.
Am I preventing the spread of pesticides?
Always think about the pesticides you have handled and be aware of your activities AFTER you handle them. Pesticides can be transferred to other people, animals or objects by several different means. If you get in a car while wearing an outfit you handled pesticides in, you can leave behind residue. If you answer a phone call, you could leave residue on the phone. Pesticides can rub off on furniture, clothing, carpeting, etc.
Spills must always be cleaned up. Any spill can open the door to contamination for anyone else that enters the area.
Have I instructed the technicians I supervise?
Take time to be sure all those you supervise are aware of procedures for handling and using pesticides, including reading labels. All those you supervise should know how people are exposed, risks associated with exposure, risks of heat stress and basic first aid.
They also need specific direction concerning all pesticides they will handle. It is your legal responsibility to keep them informed.
Am I ready for an emergency?
Any time you are going to initiate a pesticide handling activity, be sure you are prepared for injuries, spills, etc. You should have personal decontamination equipment. This should include extra coveralls (in case your clothing is saturated), clean water, detergent and paper towels.
You also need a fully stocked first aid kit with a plastic eyewash dispenser.
A spill cleanup kit should also be on hand at all times. Personal protective equipment and supplies for cleanup should be available.
Before you are in an emergency situation, know whom you will call. Acquaint yourself with signs and symptoms of exposure, poisoning, and injury from pesticide. In an emergency, remove the victim and then call for help.
Is the area clear of people and animals?
Only trained, authorized technicians should be allowed in a pesticide application site. Make sure that the area has been cleared completely and that people know how long they must remain out of the area to avoid exposure.
Think everything through before you begin a pesticide application to be sure you avoid wrong decisions. Problems include incorrect use that damages the target area, wasted materials, and the inability to control pests. Pesticides used incorrectly can harm people, animals and locations. They can also result in legal action. Finally, incorrect use of pesticides is costly.
Use your knowledge to decide what pesticide is best for the situation. If you have trouble assessing the situation, contact someone who can help like the dealer, a trade association or the Cooperative Extension Service.
Once you decide on a pesticide, you may have to choose which type of formulation to use. There are several factors that will help you determine which will be most effective:
Application site: some formulations may cause more harm to the particular site or its inhabitants. Be aware of what animal and plant life exist there and which formulations are safest for those involved. For example, fumigant formulations are highly likely to injure or kill any plants or animals on site. Avoid killing nontarget organisms. Pesticide labeling can help with this decision.
Equipment: Your choice of formulation may depend on the quality of and accessibility to certain equipment. Be sure yours is in good operating condition.
Pesticide movement: Consider air currents and water sources to determine the risks of distribution through the air to offsite areas or the likelihood of runoff through streams and water sources. If there is the possibility of runoff, consider formulations like granules and pellets. In areas with swift moving air currents, consider formulations that reduce drift.
Personal safety: If you have the chance to choose, select formulations that are less harmful to people. Be aware of adjuvants that you mix with pesticides and how they may also increase your risk of exposure through things like penetrants, emulsifiers, stickers and wetting agents.
Target pest: Often the formulation you choose will be highly dependent on the pest you want to control. Some pests require a pesticide that will reach each pest individually while others only require a bait system.
Surface characteristics: Know what types of surfaces are more readily affected by different kinds of formulations. Don’t use a granule formulation on a slick, slippery surface where they are likely to just blow off.
Cost: Choose pesticides that are as economical as possible such as those concentrates that have to be diluted and are easier to transport. Do keep in mind the risks affiliated with mixing and storing these chemicals.
When it is time to decide on your application procedure, consider the effectiveness of the pesticide application, the possible effects on you and coworkers and the effects on other people and the environment.
Most aerosol and fogging applications are applied in enclosed spaces. If the space is not enclosed, you will sometimes have to make it an enclosed space. For this you would use tarps, plastic sheets and other chemical-resistant materials. Be sure the space is sealed well, possibly by tightening openings and covering the base securely.
Before using pesticides on a soil surface, you have to learn about the soil’s characteristics. Texture and the amount of organic matter will directly affect the pesticides ability to do its job. Organic matter can limit pesticide activity while soil with fine particles will require more pesticide.
Plant surfaces vary and the effect of the pesticide on it will vary accordingly. A waxy leaf with a cuticle layer will cause spray solutions to bead and run off. If the leaf has hairs, they will hold the pesticide and cause uneven distribution. Labeling will help you in these situations.
Wood, concrete and some fabrics are considered porous surfaces and easily absorb pesticides. If the goal is saturation, this works perfectly. If, however, you need pesticide to stay on the surface, more pesticide may be required. Nonporous surfaces have a tendency to cause pesticides to pool or run off.
For slanted surfaces or upright surfaces, it may be necessary to use stickers to aid the pesticide in clinging to the surface.
Labels will also give indications for porous and nonporous surfaces.
Another factor for a pesticide’s effectiveness is how clean the surface is. If it is particularly dirty, the pesticide may not even reach the surface.
Surface moisture is often ideal in aiding the spread of a pesticide. However, too much or too little surface moisture can also be a hindrance.
If the temperature is low, some pests may slow their activity and be more difficult to treat. Cold temperatures may also directly affect the pesticide’s action. Very warm temperatures can also affect a pesticide’s action by breaking down the chemicals before they have a chance to work. Labeling will give warnings for all of these circumstances.
Another consideration is that high temperatures combined with low humidity can increase the chances that the pesticide will evaporate. Again, labels will offer warnings regarding evaporation and the spread of pesticides. One way to help prevent a pesticide from moving off site is to increase droplet size.
Rain and irrigation can be a help when pesticides are applied to porous surfaces like soil. It is also helpful when water is needed to trigger the pesticide action as in the case of some granular pesticides. Labels will indicate if it is best to apply before or after watering.
Many times rain may be a hindrance to application as it can wash away and decrease the effectiveness of a pesticide. Before any outdoor applications, you should check the pesticide label as well as the forecast.
Air movement must always be considered, particularly for outdoor applications. Excessive wind will blow pesticides off site contributing to dangerous situations. Check labels for warnings. If you are indoors, ask to have ventilation altered to prevent such flow.
When it is time to schedule applications, always take in to consideration conditions that will affect the application. If you do not have a choice in scheduling, make the best possible decisions under the given circumstances. Many times scheduling applications for off hours is productive. Advantages include that there is less of a chance of other people being affected, it is usually cooler, wind is more likely to be low and there will be no direct sun in outdoor or glass-roofed sites.
If you are able and do work during early morning or late evening hours, be sure there is someone who can check on you.
To avoid heat stress, keep all factors in mind that contribute to it. Make any necessary adjustments to take precautions. Take in to account humidity, temperature, air movement, sunlight, workload, protective equipment, water and scheduling.
Heat stress is more likely to occur when there are high temperatures, high humidity and direct sunlight. If the workload is heavy, this will only increase the chances for it. Any time you can, use fans and as much ventilation as possible. Shade your work area for example. Take several days to adjust to working in hot conditions. Build your endurance by working for short periods each day then eventually extending the work periods. Take frequent breaks.
Also keep in mind that the precautions necessary to keep you from harmful pesticide effects are the same precautions that can cause you to overheat. Layers of clothing keep your body from cooling properly; therefore you should choose equipment that is as cool as possible. Also increase your shade and cooling by using fans, air conditioners, etc.
The loss of water from your body is also a concern during warm working conditions. Your body needs water to keep from overheating. If you have a heavy workload, are working in warm temperatures in direct sunlight, you could lose as much as one gallon of water per hour.
Be sure to drink plenty of water or sports drinks. Do not rely on a feeling of thirst; it can be deceiving. Drink plenty of water before and after work.
Take all of these necessary precautions and adjust work schedules as needed to prevent heat stress. If you must, adjust work and rest cycles. Schedule heaviest workloads during cooler times of day and stop work completely if necessary.