Farm safety - handling chemicals

Farm safety - handling chemicals

Everyone 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.