Getting a Handle on Pesticides By Bob Decker

Find out how to properly store and handle pesticides.

Pesticides used today are less toxic and used lessfrequently than several years ago. Nevertheless, they can be a serious hazardto 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 downhillfrom water supply or production areas. The floor should be concrete; wallsshould be constructed of non-combustible materials; doors should have a sill tocontain spills. Another way to contain spills is to construct a dike around thebuilding.

Provide forced ventilation that either operates continuouslyor starts automatically when interior lights are turned on. Locate the mixingarea so spills will not contaminate stored chemicals. Prevent siphoningchemicals into the water supply with a backflow preventer on your watersupplies. If you do locate your pesticide storage facility in a greenhouse orservice 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 benear oil, L.P. gas, oxygen or acetylene storage and should also be away fromfurnaces and boiler rooms. Small quantities (i.e., less than 200 pounds of drymaterial and/or 25 gallons of liquid pesticide) of chemicals may be stored in aseparate room in an existing building. If the room has windows, block them tokeep out sunlight, which can deteriorate the chemicals. Very small quantitiesof chemicals, no more than will fit in a cabinet, may be stored in a metalcabinet anywhere in the facility. Separate different types of chemicals such asfungicides, insecticides and herbicides.

Keep all storage facilities locked. Only allow access topersons who are required to use the facility. Do not hang the key near thedoor, and post a sign identifying the storage facility contents on the outsideof 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 onhand equal to the total of all purchases, minus the amounts used or disposedof.

Keep complete records of all pesticide applications. Recordsare legally required for restricted-use pesticides. Each record should list thedate and time of application and the name of the pesticide. Also list the totalamount applied, rate of application, type of equipment used, croptreated and formulation. In addition, the record should describe the areatreated, weather conditions, the target pest and the name of the applicator.Keep these records for a minimum of three years. Record and carefully investigateany complaints of exposure to pesticides or possible pesticide poisoning.


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

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

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

In hot weather, Tyvek suits, aprons and respirators can bevery hot. Schedule frequent breaks to prevent heat-related illness. Try toschedule spraying early in the day when it will be cooler. Though it is coolertoward evening, spraying at this time may lead to disease development becauseplants remain wet all night. Rotating applications helps because no one has tobe 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 anemergency. Inform employees of the number to call or where to take an injuredemployee if no one in management is available. Keeping all records of pesticidestorage and use outside the chemical storage area will help employees bettercommunicate with emergency technicians.

Treated areas in greenhouses must be posted for theprotection of workers. All normal entrances must be posted with an approvedwarning sign. The standard size of the sign is 14 x 16 inches, butsmaller-sized signs may be used. See your supplier or insurance company, orcontact the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for samples of approvedwarning signs and details on the use of smaller signs. The signsshould 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 tothat time without complete protective equipment. There are certain exceptions(check with the EPA or USDA), but even then, re-entry is only allowed underspecified conditions, and a special form must be completed and mailed to theEPA. See your insurance company loss control representative, state EPA orextension agent for details about any exception.


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

Some pesticides may be disposed of through a regulardisposal service. Others must be disposed of by licensed hazardous wastehaulers in special landfills or incinerators. Never burn pesticides or dumppesticide concentrates on the ground. Try to use rinse water from spray tanksin future spray mixes, but be careful not to incorporate herbicide-contaminatedrinse water on sensitive plants. Rinse water may be disposed of on your ownproperty only if the label explicitly permits it.

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

1. Fillthe container 10 percent full with rinse water.

2. Pourthe rinse water into a spray tank.

3. Repeattwice more.

4. Fillspray tank to the proper water level.

5. Punctureor crush metal or plastic pesticide containers.

6. Triple-rinsedcontainers may generally be disposed of in regular refuse collections, butcheck with state and local authorities first.

Bob Decker

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 [email protected]

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