Safe Use of Pesticides

John Unsworth
8th April 2010

Pesticides can be useful tools that provide significant benefits to society providing that they are used in a safe and responsible manner.  Using pesticides incorrectly can put people and the environment at risk. If you use a pesticide when you don’t need to, you will be wasting money and increasing the possibility of pests becoming resistant. In some cases you might also damage the treated area. A pest, weed or disease being present does not justify taking action against it. For these reasons, you should take care when deciding whether or not to use a pesticide1. It is important to:


          Identify the specific weed, disease or pest affecting the area you are concerned about.

          Ask yourself whether you need to use a pesticide or whether there is another method of control or combination of methods you could use.

          Consider the financial loss, damage or visual effect caused by the pest, weed or disease and whether this outweighs the cost of using the pesticide.

          Consider whether the doses or concentrations of pesticides being used might damage the area being treated or the next crop planted there.

          Ask yourself whether you can make these decisions yourself or whether you need someone to help.

          If you decide to use a pesticide, plan how to use it properly. Is it possible to reduce the amount you use or the area you apply it to?


The most important source of information about a pesticide is the label. Manufacturers are required to provide information regarding what the pesticide is to be used for, how it can be used, how toxic it is, how to mix it, rate of application, precautions to take, re-entry times, kind of clothing and personal protective equipment needed, what the antidote is (if there is one), and the symptoms of poisoning if exposed to the pesticide. Other information about the use, storage, handling, or disposal of the pesticide may also be found on the label. Always read the label before purchasing, mixing, and applying a pesticide2. The importance of reading and following all label directions cannot be over emphasised3.


The key points to keep in mind are:


          Be sure that the pesticide is registered for the particular use.

          Be sure that the application conditions, timing, site harvest interval etc. are complied with.

          Avoid treatment if weather conditions are not suitable e.g. windy conditions.

          Determine if any personal protective equipment (PPE) e.g. gloves, goggles etc., are required.

          Have the correct equipment, properly calibrated where necessary, for the application.

          Avoid contamination of yourself and others in the vicinity of application.

          Avoid contamination of water ways.

          Protect nearby sensitive plants if necessary.


Proper training in the handling and application of pesticides is important, especially for professional applicators.  In many countries it is a legal requirement that applicators hold a certificate to show that they have successfully completed a recognised training course.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has produced several leaflets on the safe use of pesticides for use pesticides in and around their homes4.  In addition, they have issued a Worker Protection Standard5,6  which is designed to reduce the risks of illness or injury resulting from workers' and handlers' occupational exposures to pesticides used in the production of agricultural plants on farms or in nurseries, greenhouses, and forests and also from the accidental exposure of workers and other persons to such pesticides. It also gives workplace practices designed to reduce or eliminate exposure to pesticides and establishes procedures for responding to exposure-related emergencies.


In Australia useful documents have been produced by the South Australian government dealing with the responsible use of pesticides7 and the safe and effective use of pesticides for commercial spray operators8.  The safe use of pesticides is also dealt with in the FAO International code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides9.


CropLife International has also produced a useful Guideline – Guidelines for the Safe and Effective Use of Crop Protection Products – which supports in-field training programmes for farmers, trainers and other agricultural workers using crop protection products, and which bring together advice and recommendations in a simplified form10. Other relevant guidelines published by CropLife International concern safe warehousing11, safe transportation12  and advice on personal protection when using pesticides in hot climates13.




1.       Pesticides – Code of Conduct for Using Plant Protection Products, DEFRA, UK, January 2006

2.       Safe Use, Storage and Disposal of Pesticides, M. Steinwachs, University of Missouri Extension, WM6000, June 2007


3.       Pesticide Safe Use Checklist, A.E. Brown, Maryland Co-operative Extension, University of Maryland, Pesticide Information Leaflet No. 11, Revised October 2003

4.       US Environmental Protection Agency, Using Pesticides Safely, Last updated March 14th 2008

5.       US Environmental Protection Agency, Code of Federal Regulations, CFR Part 170, Worker Protection Standard, Last updated September 24th, 2007         
6.       US Environmental Protection Agency, Worker Protection Standard (WPS), Quick reference Guide, 2005 Update

7.       Environment Protection Authority, South Australia, EPA Guidelines for Responsible Pesticide Use, ISBN 1 92112505 5, December 2005        


8.       Environment Protection Authority, South Australia, Safe and Effective Pesticide Use, A Handbook for Commercial Spray Operators


9.       International code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides (Revised Version), Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome, 2002

10.   CropLife International, Brussels, Guidelines for the Safe and Effective Use of Crop Protection Products


11.   CropLife International, Brussels, Guidelines for the Safe Warehousing of Crop Protection Products


12.   CropLife International, Brussels, Guidelines for the Safe Transportation of Crop Protection Products


13.   CropLife International, Brussels, Guidelines for Personal Protection when Using Crop Protection Products in Hot Climates


Last modified April 8th 2010

Date added: 2010-05-08 01:12:50   
Last Updated 2010-06-29 09:38:28   
Powered by Sigsiu.NET