Farm safety - handling chemicals

Farm safety - handling chemicals

TA farmer needs to take care when storing, transporting, using and disposing of chemicals to ensure their own safety and that of the environment. Any chemical should be treated with extreme caution, since vapours or direct exposure can lead to a variety of health effects, including poisoning and burns. Hazardous materials are required by law to include a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and label. The MSDS gives valuable information on how to safely handle the chemical. To further reduce the risks, it is worth remembering that hazardous chemicals can occasionally be replaced with less toxic options. Sometimes, a safer form of the product is available - for example, pellets instead of powder.

Common chemicals
Agricultural chemicals may be pure or diluted. Commonly used agricultural chemicals include:

  • ‘1080’
  • Aluminium phosphide
  • Cresol
  • Organophosphorus pesticides
  • Pyrethroids
  • Methyl bromide
  • Strychnine
  • Tryquat.

Side effects of exposure
The effects of chemical exposure depend on the type of chemical and the degree of exposure. If chemicals are swallowed, splashed on the skin or inhaled as a vapour or dust, some of the immediate and long term effects can include:

  • Poisoning
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Skin rashes and irritation
  • Chemical burns
  • Cancer
  • Birth defects
  • Diseases of the lungs, liver or kidneys
  • Nervous system disorders.

MSDS information
Manufacturers and importers are required to supply a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that details information on the chemical, including:

  • Precautions for use
  • Possible health effects
  • Safety measures for handling
  • Contact numbers for further information.

Safe storage of chemicals
Suggestions for the safe storage of chemicals include:

  • Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions for proper storage.
  • Keep chemicals in their original containers and don’t decant into smaller bottles.
  • Don’t remove labels from containers.
  • Store chemicals in a well ventilated shed, fitted with locks and floors that won't allow seepage.
  • Keep chemicals away from protective equipment.
  • Separate different classes of chemicals to prevent reactions.
  • Store animal feeds, seeds and fertilisers separately from chemicals.
  • Have mop-up materials on hand, such as sand or soil.
  • Keep ignition sources well away from chemicals.
  • Keep a record of the chemicals you buy, store, use and replace.

Safe transport of chemicals
Suggestions for the safe transporting of chemicals include:

  • Transport chemicals separately from food, water, animal feeds, seeds and fertilisers.
  • Secure your load.
  • Carry a written record of the chemicals you are transporting.
  • Take all appropriate protective gear along with you.

Safe use of chemicals
Suggestions for the safe use of chemicals include:

  • Make sure the area is well ventilated.
  • Follow the manufacturers' instructions on the label.
  • Always wear protective clothing, such as gloves and goggles.
  • Avoid exposing non-targets like animals or plants.

Safe disposal procedures
Suggestions for the safe disposal of chemicals include:

  • Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions for proper disposal.
  • Thoroughly rinse, puncture and crush all empty containers.
  • Return empty containers to the manufacturer or check with your local council on proper disposal methods.

Seek medical help
If you think you are suffering any ill effects from chemical exposure, see your doctor immediately. Try to avoid using the chemical in the future.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor

Things to remember

  • Exposure to chemicals can lead to a variety of immediate and long term health effects including headache, poisoning, burns and birth defects.
  • Manufacturers and importers are required to supply a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that explains how to handle the chemical safely.
  • Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions on storage, use and disposal of chemicals.
Farm machinery and safety issues

Farm machinery and safety issues

Farms make up only 10 per cent of Australian workplaces, but they account for at least 25 per cent of all work related deaths. A major cause of death and injury on farms is machinery. Tractors alone cause around 11 per cent of workplace deaths in Australia. A tractor can roll over and crush the driver. Hands, hair and clothing can be caught by unguarded power take-off shafts. People can be injured by front-end loaders, fall from a moving tractor or be struck by its wheels. These types of accidents can be prevented by keeping the tractor in good repair, fitting safety equipment (such as guards, safe access platforms and roll-over protection) and by operating the tractor safely at all times.

Safety measures
General safety suggestions include:

  • Follow the manufacturers’ instructions for operation.
  • Don’t remove or modify safety features.
  • Ensure that everyone working on the farm is thoroughly familiar with operating procedures and safety requirements.
  • Fit guards to cover the moving parts of machinery.
  • Make sure that tractors are correctly ballasted or weighted for particular jobs.
  • Fit a falling object protective structure on the front-end loader.
  • Keep a well stocked first aid kit in an accessible area.
  • Always use appropriate protective clothing.

Train workers thoroughly
Your farm is a workplace and you are responsible for the health and safety of workers and visitors. Inexperienced workers are much more likely to be injured in farm accidents. You can prevent injuries in many ways:

  • Supervise inexperienced workers at all times.
  • Make sure your workers are thoroughly trained in equipment operation and safety.
  • Keep all equipment in good repair.
  • Warn workers of potential hazards and insist they use equipment safely.
  • Only allow a worker to perform a task when you are confident they can handle it.
  • Keep visitors well away from operating machinery and warn them of potential hazards.

Safe tractor operation
Keep your tractor in good repair and immediately fix or replace faulty parts. Make detailed notes on services and repairs in a logbook, and do a general maintenance check on the tractor every day before use. Other safety suggestions include:

  • Devise safety procedures that everyone must follow, such as only starting the tractor when sitting in the driver’s seat.
  • Install roll-over protection (ROPS) and seatbelts.
  • Don’t allow anyone to stand near the tractor when it’s being started.
  • Don’t operate your tractor close to dams, pipes, drains and other potential hazards.
  • Remember that tractors are more likely to tip when riding over hilly ground.
  • Don’t allow passengers.
  • Make sure that steps and control pedals are non-slip and kept clean.

Unguarded power take-off shafts are hazardous
All moving machinery parts should be guarded so that clothing, hair or fingers can’t get caught. Safety suggestions for power take-off shafts include:

  • Guard the entire length of the shaft
  • Anchor the shaft guard to stop it from rotating
  • Enclose the joints with a guard
  • Keep shields in place when using the tractor.
  • Protect children from tractor accidents
    Children account for one in seven farm related fatalities. You can protect children from harm in many ways, including:
    • Warn children of the hazards and make them aware of safety issues.
    • Make sure that equipment storage areas are securely locked and inaccessible.
    • Don’t leave running machinery unattended.
    • Lower your tractor’s front-end loaders or three-point linkages after use.
    • Don’t allow children to ride on the tractor.
    Draw up an emergency plan
    An emergency plan is vital. Some suggestions include:
    • Ensure easy access to a suitable first aid kit
    • Make sure at least one person on the farm is trained in first aid
    • Keep emergency numbers next to the telephone
    • Plan routes to the nearest hospital
    • Regularly talk through your emergency plan
    • Make sure your children understand what to do.
    Where to get help
    • Your doctor
    • FarmSafe Australia Tel. (02) 6752 8210
    • In an emergency, always call 000 for an ambulance.
    Things to remember
    • Common tractor accidents involve roll-overs, run-overs and unguarded power take-off shafts.
    • Fit your tractor with roll-over protection (ROPS) and seatbelts.
    • Ensure that everyone working on the farm is thoroughly familiar with operating procedures and safety requirements