Mary Ann Rose, Ohio State University Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program
The beginning and end of the growing season are good times to assess your pesticide storage. It’s wise to view your pesticide storage from a risk perspective – risks to workers and pesticide applicators, other people, and the environment. Let’s start with people who have no business being in your pesticide storage area! Accidental poisonings to children and intentional tampering come to mind. Keeping your pesticide storage area or cabinet securely locked is the first and most important step to prevent potentially disastrous or even tragic occurrences. Posting “No Smoking” and “Pesticide Storage – Keep Out!” are also important to prevent harm to unauthorized users.
Protecting farm workers. While in some cases a small farm pesticide storage shed may not be marked on the outside to prevent it from becoming an “attractive nuisance,” this would not be appropriate on a farm with workers who need to know where hazardous materials are stored. Furthermore, workers have a legal right to access Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for all hazardous materials in the workplace, pesticides being just one kind of hazardous substance. In addition to having SDS sheets available, post the emergency contact numbers for poison control and the nearest emergency medical facility near your storage area.
Protecting pesticide applicators. Next look at your pesticide storage from the perspective of workers and pesticide applicators who use the pesticide storage area. Are the containers intact, and are the pesticide labels securely attached to the containers? Or do you see leaking containers, torn bags, and illegible labels? These problems present multiple hazards including unacceptable exposure to pesticides, cross contamination of pesticides, and the potential for misuse. Keep your dry pesticides away from moisture, and above or away from the liquid materials. If your pesticide containers are leaking, transfer the pesticide to a cleaned, recycled pesticide container or other appropriate container. NEVER use a food container such as a drink bottle for pesticide storage. This is illegal, and sadly, has resulted in fatalities. Make sure the pesticide label is firmly attached to the container, if necessary, print a new one and re-attach.
Good lighting and ventilation in the storage area contribute to safety of those who use the facility. Where the personal protective equipment (PPE) is stored is another important consideration. Keep your PPE in a separate area from the chemical storage to prevent contamination of the PPE before you even wear it!
Protecting the environment. Potential environment contamination is the third perspective to consider. Are you keeping old pesticides around that you will never use, or stockpiling uncleaned containers? Are you prepared for a fire with a fire extinguisher or a spill with a spill kit? For spill readiness, always have these items available: absorbent material, PPE to protect yourself, and materials to sweep up and dispose of the waste.
Ohio Pesticide law requires any drains to be plugged in areas where pesticides are stored in bulk, and furthermore it is a best practice for any pesticide storage area. Bulk pesticide means pesticide stored in a single container with a capacity greater than 100 lbs. (dry) or 55 gallons (liquid). There are additional regulations for non-mobile bulk pesticide storage.
What about waste pesticides? Never pour pesticides down any kind of drain, this is illegal. Burning pesticide waste or containers also is illegal in Ohio. The best way to dispose of unneeded farm pesticides is to take them to one of the Ohio Department of Agricultures “Clean Sweep” events held in July or August each year. For pesticide containers, follow the pesticide label for disposal. Also, consider using the free Ag Container Recycling Council program to recycle your properly rinsed agricultural pesticide containers - www.gpsagrecycle.com.
This fall, take a close look at your pesticide storage area. Resolve now to put safety first!
Contact the Pesticide Safety Education Program with your pesticide safety questions: email@example.com / 614-292-4070. This column is provided by the OSU Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Team, agsafety.osu.edu.