Pesticide safety for field crop farmers

Pesticides are used as crop protectants on many farms, but can pose potential harmful risks. Pesticide applicators need to follow safety practices to reduce risks for the environment, other people, and especially themselves.

Each year, MSU Extension educators provide pesticide applicators with numerous hours of classroom and hands-on training for safe pesticide handling and use. Every three years, pesticide applicators are recertified by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development through testing or educational credits. A 237-page National Pesticide Applicator Certification Core Manual is available for self-study through MSU Extension offices. Online orders for manuals can be made from the MSU Extension Bookstore.

Agribusinesses offer training as well. The National Safety Council recognizes the wide use of pesticides for food production and stresses the need for these substances to be handled with care. Below are their suggestions to help reduce potential exposure.

  • Always read packaging labels. All crop protection chemicals include information on the proper use of the chemical; its proper handling, safe storage and first aid information.
  • Obtain Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the crop protection chemicals that you use. MSDS contain additional health hazard data, spill or leak procedures and handling information. Be sure to keep a set separate from the storage area.
  • Have on hand and wear the personal protective equipment required by the label. These can include chemical-resistant gloves, coveralls, boots, hat and apron, approved respirator with cartridges for pesticides, and chemical protection goggles and face shield.
  • Keep crop protection chemicals in storage areas that can be locked to keep bystanders and children out. Be sure to label the storage area as containing pesticides.
  • Launder chemical-soiled clothing separately from other laundry and triple rinse.

For more information on pesticide safety, additional integrated pest management practices, or upcoming training sessions, contact your localMSU Extension office or the MSU Pesticide Safety Education Office at 517-353-5134.

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