Incident Prevention Magazine

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Preventing Employee Exposure to Pesticides

Employees may occasionally encounter crops and substations that have recently been sprayed with pesticides. This Tailgate describes what to look for and the safe work practices to use to minimize pesticide exposure.

Following are a few definitions relative to helping you fully understand employee protection from pesticides:

Pesticide: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definition of a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest. Pests can be insects, mice and other animals, unwanted plants, fungi, or microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term “pesticide” also applies to herbicides, fungicides and various other substances used to control pests. Under U.S. law, a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant or desiccant.

Restricted Entry Interval: The EPA requires pesticide companies to identify the time period during which employees should not enter a field after treatment. This is known as the “restricted entry interval.” The restricted entry interval is typically four to 24 hours after application, but can be as long as 96 hours.

Seed Fields: Crops that are grown specifically for their seeds; the seeds are sold to farmers the next year.

Warning Sign (Crop Pesticide Application): A federally-mandated warning sign that is placed at the entry of fields that have been sprayed.

Supervisors and employees are responsible for ensuring the following steps are taken to minimize pesticide exposure:

• If a warning sign is present on a farm field, ensure your employees do not enter the field until after the restricted entry interval has passed.
• If a farm field appears to have recently been sprayed with a pesticide, the supervisor must contact the owner/operator to determine if the field has been sprayed and when the restricted entry interval will expire.
• If a substation or other job site work area has been sprayed, make sure the employee’s work does not entail touching sprayed vegetation or equipment.

• Follow all pesticide application warning signs and markings.
• Notify your supervisor if you believe a farm field where work is to be performed may have recently been sprayed with pesticide.

Crops Sprayed with Pesticides
Corporate farms and seed farms will generally have the best warning signs. Smaller farms may not be marked after pesticide application. Employees need to look for cues such as liquid on the leaves of the plants – when there shouldn’t be dew or raindrops – or dust.

Customer- and Company-Owned Substations
Substations are sprayed for weed control. Contractors should place an indicator – such as a 1-inch Tyvek strip – on the substation gate to identify the date the station was sprayed and the time the restricted entry interval will expire. Customers may or may not mark their property.

If an employee thinks a property or farm has recently been sprayed and there is no pesticide application warning sign, they must locate the owner or farmer to ensure the property is safe to enter.

In cases of emergent work that is critical, employees may be able to enter a farm field before the restricted entry interval has passed if certain safety precautions are taken. In such cases, your safety professional should work with the farm representative to identify whether or not there are safe means to work in the field.

This guidance is general in nature. iP recommends that you follow your company-specific directions and procedures to minimize pesticide exposure.

About the Author: John Boyle is Corporate Director of Quality, Safety and Environment for Acciona Energy North America, a sustainable energy company that develops and operates wind and solar power facilities. Boyle has more than 26 years of experience in nuclear generation and electric and gas distribution.

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Monday, 27 January 2020

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