There are many reasons why a farmer would use chemicals on a regular basis. In fact, chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, fuels, solvents and plant protection products are vastly beneficial to a farm in order to improve crop yield and quicken the growth of plants, as examples. The term pesticide includes chemicals used to control insects, fungi and weeds. Pesticides can serve many functions such as preventing crop failure and controlling invasive plants.

While chemicals have an important part to play in the agricultural sector they can also be harmful if not managed correctly and safely. For the soil, incorrect use or overuse can damage soil fertility, cause populations of beneficial soil microorganisms to decline and even harm the nutritional value of our food. The damage to human health can range from mild to severe if not handled properly, leading to short and long term impacts. Health effects can include headaches, poisoning, burns, birth defects, nervous system disorders and some cancers.

Always remember to check the label and study the safety data sheet provided on chemical products. In order to use these products correctly you must read and follow all of the instructions. To prevent injury wear any protective clothing recommended. Keep chemicals locked away and out of reach from children at all costs and when containers are empty, dispose of them safely.

Never enter a shed or allow someone to enter a shed where slurry is being agitated. During this occasion high levels of Hydrogen Sulphide are released and even the slightest inhalation of this toxic gas can cause instant death. It is also important to never mix chemicals unless you know for certain they won’t react and to never use flammable chemicals near ignition sources. Never transfer chemicals into unmarked containers.

According to the HSA when dealing with chemicals one must always follow these steps:

  • Keep chemicals in original marked containers
  • All chemical products on the farm should be stored in a designated and locked store
  • All containers with chemical products should have a label. Read the label and follow recommendations for safe use
  • Wear suitable gloves to protect the hands from contact with harmful substances
  • Respiratory Equipment protects you from exposure to harmful substances
  • Select the correct equipment as recommended by the manufacturer
  • Wash your hands regularly and always before eating, drinking or smoking

The author: Nick Fitzgerald