Preparing chemicals for autumn? Protection is key

Preparing chemicals for autumn? Protection is key

30 January 2018

As the kids get ready for the start of another school year, dairy farmers will be thinking about pre-autumn spraying and re-grassing. Farmers often work with hazardous products like cleaners, sprays and fertilisers, and during February harmful exposure to hazardous substances is more likely.

Exposure to hazardous substances in sprays and fertilisers may not have an immediate effect on health, but the harm can become evident 25 to 30 years down the track when it might be too late to prevent any consequences.

Making sure you know how to handle hazardous substances can make a difference to your health outcomes. The new Hazardous Substances regulations, which came in to effect on 1 December 2017, are designed to promote safer management of such substances at work for employers, workers and others.

So if you haven’t already, check you’re doing things right on your farm. The good news is if you were up to speed with the old rules, there won’t be much to do. Here are 10 steps farmers can take to help meet the new requirements:

Keep an inventory

These are now mandatory so make sure you create an inventory of hazardous substances used, handled and stored on the farm. WorkSafe’s Hazardous Substances Toolbox website includes a workbook with tips, checklists and a downloadable inventory form. You can also use the toolkit’s calculator to create and edit an online inventory.

Use and share safety data sheets

These record key information about a hazardous substance, e.g. its properties, correct storage, what personal protective equipment is needed, and first aid information. The sheets must be easily available to anyone likely to be exposed to a substance, including in an emergency. Your suppliers can give you data safety sheets.

Conduct a risk assessment

Think about the hazardous substances you work with — can you substitute any for a safer product? Controls set out in the regulations must now be used for any hazardous substances you keep. Remember to dispose of any products you no longer need through Agrecovery, the rural recycling programme (

Inform and train your workers.

You must give appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision to workers who are going to handle or be affected by hazardous substances.

Emergency preparedness

For most substances the new rules require you to create a plan outlining how you will deal with a hazardous substance emergency at your workplace, (e.g. if someone is poisoned/ burnt, a fire breaks out or there’s a leak).

Correctly label containers, including hazardous waste

Label containers so people know exactly what’s inside and how to stay safe. Manufacturers and suppliers must correctly label their products. Anyone using the substance must make sure the label stays fixed to the container and is legible.

Install warning signs

Place signs where hazardous substances are used and stored, such as, entrances to the property, the building, and rooms they are located in. These let your workers and visitors know they must take care and alert emergency services to what substances are on-site if there’s an incident. Signs are available from hardware stores, farm supply stores and online safety gear distributors.

Keep storage areas and containers are safe

Store only what’s needed, keep incompatible substances apart, use containers appropriate for the substance, and label everything clearly.

Take care with hazardous waste

Dispose of hazardous substances safely and appropriately. Read the safety data sheet and contact the local council for disposal advice. Agrecovery provides an agrichemicals disposal service.

Provide protective gear

Ensure workers handling hazardous substances have suitable protective clothing that fits properly and that they know how to use and maintain it correctly.

Article supplied by Worksafe