Pesticides: A Workplace Hazard Not To Be Ignored

21st February 2017

Pesticide chemicals are commonplace in many U.K. workplaces however such substances can prove hazardous if they are handled or stored incorrectly. If inhaled or if a splash comes in contact with skin, the resulting effects of pesticides can range from a minor headache to burns to rashes or even poisoning.

Incorrectly handling or storing pesticides can also pose a risk to the environment, especially if they make their way into the water supply. It is, therefore imperative to take active measures to reduce the possibility of exposure by employees and other stakeholders to pesticide chemicals.

Workplace hazards can be easily prevented with the correct pesticide management procedures in place. There are a number of best practices for handling and storing pesticide chemicals which should be implemented in the workplace to minimise health and safety issues.

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1. Use PPE whenever handling the chemicals

Establishing a protocol for employees to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when handling chemical pesticides dramatically reduces their exposure to dangerous toxins. The amount of equipment required varies depending on the amount and type of chemicals being handled, but there is a basic standard of PPE that should be used regardless.

These include protective eye goggles, chemical resistant gloves, heavy duty boots, and chemical resistant clothing, for example a splash suit or disposable overalls. If employees are handling air borne chemicals, which so many pesticides are, PPE in the form of breathing apparatus or air purifiers should also be provided.

2. Don’t use excessive quantities of pesticide chemicals

It is easy to use an excessive quantity of pesticides, but doing so can actually have a damaging effect on your workplace. Overuse of pesticides can increase chemical exposure for employees, amplifying the risk of health concerns arising while also seriously negatively impacting the environmental.

Excessive use of pesticides increases the possibility of contamination of surrounding land and water supplies as the superfluous chemicals have a high possibility of running into the surrounding area. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to check the label for the recommended dosage before using any pesticide chemicals.

3. Consider weather conditions before spraying pesticides

Industrial pesticides should only be used in the correct weather conditions, both to improve their effectiveness and ensure workplace safety. The first step is to ensure the winds aren’t too high when spreading the pesticides, as this causes them to blow into neighbouring areas and potentially cause environmental damage. Not to mention, it also effects the chemicals’ potency and ability to complete the required task.

The next step is to check the temperature. The temperature should not be higher than recommended on the pesticides’ labels, as excess heat could spark a fire or other chemical reaction. Finally, the rain forecast should also be monitored. Chemical pesticides should not be spread if the rain is likely to wash them away from the area they were spread in.

4. Choose the correct pesticide storage cabinet

Choosing the correct pesticide storage cabinet vastly increases the security of your workplace. However, there’s a number of considerations when selecting the right cabinet, as each business has different pesticide storage requirements. The amount of pesticides to be stored is one of the biggest considerations, as well as the availability of adjustable shelves for different sized containers.

Another key element to consider is the construction of the storage units as UK pesticide storage regulations require chemicals to be stored in cabinets which can contain spillage, are constructed of non-combustible material and can be secured against unauthorized access. As a result, heavy duty steel cabinets, designed specifically for the storage of pesticides, are the most secure option, as these can withstand most vandalism and theft attempts and can be customised to withstand fire for a minimum of 30 minutes.

5. Designate a specific pesticide storage area

Once you have selected the most suitable pesticide storage, it’s time to choose where it will be located. The best option is in an area of the workplace with little foot traffic, as this prevents the cabinets from being jostled, damaged by machinery such as forklifts, or commandeered for other purposes by workers. An area with good ventilation prevents a dangerous build-up of fumes, and the cabinet should be positioned so that its own vents aren’t blocked. Unless the pesticide storage cabinet is suitable for outdoor use, it should be located inside the workplace to prevent rust from forming.

6. Use clear safety signage

Safety signage is essential to prevent industrial pesticides from being misused and mishandled. As a result, there should be a large pesticide storage sign above the chemical cabinets, to warn workers to be cautious in this area. Each individual pesticide storage container should also be clearly labelled with the name of the pesticide, the crop or pest it should treat, the maximum dose to be used, any specific safety precautions that need to be taken and the expiry date. (Since expired pesticides can be unstable for use, this is a particularly important point to include.)

Require further help securing your chemical pesticides?

Safety Storage Systems UK are industry leaders in pesticide storage. If you need further information on pesticide storage requirements, contact us today! Or, learn more about chemical safety in the workplace by reading our previous blog posts.

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