COLUMBUS, Ohio – It may sound simple, but wearing a long-sleeve shirt and long pants when using pesticides is just one way in which farmers can decrease their risk of injury when spraying, a safety expert with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences said.
Knowing some simple safety precautions to take when using a pesticide sprayer is key for farmers to reduce the potential for injuries, said Andy Bauer, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural health and safety professional. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.
With spring planting well underway, this is a time when farmers should take extra precautions to prevent accidental exposure when working with a sprayer, Bauer said. One of the most important things farmers can do when handling pesticides is to carefully read the label, he said.
“The label will tell you everything you need to know about that pesticide, including what you need to take under advisement when using that chemical,” Bauer said. “A lot of people don’t take the time to learn safety requirements because they may feel like, ‘It’s the way granddad did it, dad and I will do it this way too.’
“Sometimes it’s as simple as not wanting to wear long sleeves or long pants because it’s too hot outside while spraying.”
According to a statement on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10,000-20,000 physician-diagnosed pesticide poisonings occur each year among the approximately 2 million U.S. agricultural workers.
Agricultural workers, groundskeepers, pet groomers, fumigators and a variety of other workers are at risk for exposure to pesticides, including fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides and sanitizers, the statement says.
Bauer said there are more instances of unintended pesticide contact this time of year because of increased chemical applications during spring planting.
“We’re spraying fields now, and you have to think not only about the crops but your own health,” he said. “Your own body is your most valuable tool.”
Precautions Bauer cites to take when using a sprayer include:
Keep the label on each container so everyone can see what it contains and its safety precautions.
Read the label on the product you are using. The label will identify the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you need to wear when handling the product and the hazards of using that product.
Always follow the application rate as directed on the product label.
Always wear eye protection, gloves, long-sleeve shirt and long-leg pants when handling chemicals, and take your time when mixing.
Triple-rinse empty pesticide containers and do not reuse them; dispose of empty containers properly after rinsing.
Immediately wash with clean water and change your clothes if pesticides are sprayed or spilled on you. Wash your work clothes separately from other clothing after mixing and using pesticides to prevent cross-contamination of yourself and your family.
Wash your hands before eating, drinking, chewing gum, using tobacco or touching your nose or mouth.