So what issues do we need to be aware of? And what should we be doing to protect ourselves and our staff from potential hazards?
Here’s a quick checklist that you can use to help manage your herbicide risks:
1. Understand what you’re dealing with
- Have you been appropriately trained to handle and apply chemicals?
- Do you know how to identify the appropriate herbicide for your application (with the lowest toxicity and shortest persistence to meet your needs)?
- Do you understand the manufacturer’s instructions?
- Do you understand what the chemical does and how it works?
- Do you know when best to apply the chemical?
2. Ensure your herbicide storage facilities are appropriate
- Do you maintain records of herbicides you buy and store?
- Do you only buy what you require (avoiding the need for long term storage of large quantities of herbicides)?
- Do you monitor the batch numbers, manufacture dates and expiry dates of each herbicide to ensure your weed control activities are as effective as possible?
- Are you following the manufacturer’s instructions for storage?
- Are all herbicides stored in their original containers and are their labels intact?
- Are your herbicides locked away and well-ventilated at all times (both in storage and transit)?
- Do you store animal feeds, seeds and fertilisers separately from other chemicals?
- Are the different types of chemicals separated to prevent reactions?
- Are chemicals and protective equipment stored in different areas to avoid cross-contamination?
- Do you store face masks and filters separately to other contaminated protective equipment when not in use (for example, in a zip-lock bag or a sealed container)?
- Do you protect chemicals from potential ignition sources?
- Is there adequate warning signage around your chemical storage facilities?
- Are liquid chemicals stored away from solid chemicals (not directly above)?
- Are potential spills contained by bunding?
- Do you have spill cleanup equipment within easy reach (such as absorbent materials and PPE)?
- Do you regularly audit your storage facilities and procedures (at least annually)?
3. Be prepared for safe herbicide use
- Can you readily access the manufacturer’s instructions for use, as well as the applicable Safety Data Sheet (SDS), where you store and use herbicides?
- Do you wear protective equipment to minimise the risk of chemical exposure (such as chemical-resistant gloves, face shields or masks, overalls and goggles)?
- Do you have an emergency response plan?
- Do you have an emergency shower, eyewash and first aid kit where your herbicides are stored and used?
- Do you use chemical decanting kits to reduce the risk of spills and splashes while mixing chemicals?
- Do you only mix the quantity of chemical required for the task at hand?
- Are non-target animals and plants protected from chemicals?
- Have withholding periods and re-entry periods been considered?
- Is equipment triple rinsed after chemical application?
- Are leftover chemicals and rinse water disposed of appropriately (ideally on the treatment site)?
- Do you maintain records of all herbicide application activities?
So how’d you fair with the checklist? Is there anything else you can do to ensure you’re handling herbicides responsibly?