Many practical ideas to solve everyday problems with pesticide handling have been invented and used by growers throughout Washington State. The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, known as PNASH, studied these farm-bred and tested ideas and put them together in a new guide called Practical ­Solutions for Pesticide Safety, available in both Spanish and English.

The guide gives voice to farmer experts who are the innovators of practical ­solutions for problems on the farm.

The “Interventions to Minimize Worker and Family Pesticide Exposures” project at PNASH started by interviewing 31 experts including pesticide handlers, farm managers, and pesticide safety educators, with the aim of identifying barriers and solutions to pesticide safety. From this, an expert working group made up of growers, managers, pesticide handlers, and safety educators was formed to identify and prioritize pesticide safety hazards and solutions. The group also vetted the ­practicality of proposed solutions and tested some solutions on farm.

Practical solutions

Each solution had to be compatible with work activities, convenient for handlers and management, as well as adaptable and affordable for other workplaces. The solution had to minimize pesticide exposure and not create a new health or safety problem.  The results are 24 practical solutions put together in a colorful, easy-to-read manual that addresses the following pesticide safety categories:

  • Mixing and loading
  • Pesticide application and drift reduction
  • Decontamination
  • Emergency and sanitation facilities
  • Pesticide storage facilities
  • Reducing family exposure
  • Personal protective equipment

One clever idea the PNASH team found was a good way to store emergency eyewash on a tractor. The originator was a manager who previously stored his equipment in a PVC pipe. Problem was, the cap on the pipe got stuck. An ammunition box was just the ticket because it was durable and easy to get into when needed. Tips include selecting a box that is wide and shallow enough so larger hands can easily reach in. It answers a real need, because one out of every 20 Washington pesticide safety violations from 2007 to 2009 was not providing a pint of emergency ­eyewash immediately available to the ­handler.

Another idea is the nurse tank. This is an auxiliary tank that can be taken out into the orchard as a mobile refill station. A great time saver, it avoids making the applicator return to the mixing station for each refill. One manager estimated it increased application efficiency by 20 percent. It also can help avoid errors because only one person is doing the mixing.

“Previously, we had a mixing station for each 50 acres of orchard and now one mixing station services about 335 acres. Applicators do not need to stop to mix and load new batches; they are topped off by the nurse tank and continue spraying. It is easier to monitor the pesticide inventory and only one employee is mixing and loading pesticides at a centralized location,” the user explained.

Photos, illustrations and directions are included for each solution, as well as an indication of the cost for labor and materials. Each solution comes with a list of tips that highlights modifications, methods to improve the solution, or training points.

The safety guide provides additional resources, including information on how to explore the topic further, how to find training tools, or where to read up on the relevant regulation. Links are provided in English, and in Spanish when available. A bibliography lists the research publications that stand behind many of the solution topics.