Licences and advice for occupational pesticide users

Do you need to use pesticides as part of your job? You may require a licence from the EPA. When using pesticides, you need to follow the rules to protect people and the environment.

If harm to people, animals, property or the environment is inevitably going to occur despite all reasonable precautions being taken, do not apply the pesticide.

Ensure that when spraying pesticides, you avoid spraying adjoining properties

It is illegal to possess, prepare for use or apply a pesticide in NSW unless

  • it is registered by the APVMA and has an approved label; or 
  • is used as per the requirements of a relevant APVMA permit

You could be prosecuted if there was an intent to use an unregistered pesticide.

People storing cancelled or deregistered pesticides while waiting to dispose of them appropriately would not be prosecuted, however.

In NSW, it is illegal to disregard the label instructions on a registered pesticide. You must read the label or have it read to you before using any pesticide, and follow all the instructions on the label.

There are only two exceptions for using a pesticide contrary to the label instructions

  1. you have a relevant APVMA permit and you comply with it
  2. you use a lower application rate than recommended on the label, and use at lower rates is not specifically prohibited by the label instructions or an EPA pesticide control order.

Pesticide control orders provide information on using restricted, that is, dangerous, pesticides. There are special training requirements, notification procedures and procedures that must be followed.

Storing pesticides in unlabelled containers such as soft drink bottles or open buckets could harm human health. You must keep a pesticide in a container that bears its label.

It is not an offence to store pesticides

  • diluted or otherwise, in a spray tank during spray operations
  • decanted from leaking containers in unlabelled containers for a short period until a replacement label or labelled container is obtained

Everyone involved in making a decision to use a pesticide is responsible for ensuring proper use, and may also share the liability if the pesticide is misused. Decisions about the application of pesticides on land are often shared between the pesticide applicator, the occupier of the land and a consultant who provides advice on optimal pesticide application.

You may be guilty of an offence if you

  • fail to provide essential information
  • provide wrong or misleading information
  • coerce or pressures another person into misusing pesticides

Ultimately, the person most responsible for the pesticide is liable for any offence. This means

  • if the person applying the pesticide is an employee, charges can be laid against the employer, as well as or instead of, the employee
  • a person engaging a contractor may be charged, as well as or instead of, the contractor
  • company directors may be personally liable for offences committed by the company

For advice about workplace exposure to pesticides call SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) on 131 050.

Information on dealing with pesticide exposure is provided in Chapter 11 of SafeWork NSW's Safe Use of Pesticides including Herbicides in Non-agricultural Workplaces Code of Practice 2006. This information includes

11.3 Emergency treatment - first aid procedures

11.3.1 General procedures

  • read and follow the instructions on the label
  • if the sufferer is unconscious, do not induce vomiting and do not administer anything by mouth
  • first aid is only the first step, and is not a substitute for full professional medical treatment
  • following first aid, take the sufferer to a doctor or hospital and make sure you take along the pesticide container or label, or MSDS.

11.3.2 Specific first aid instructions

Check the following procedures for each route of entry

  • spilled on the skin or clothing, remove the clothing immediately and thoroughly wash the skin with water or soap. Do not scrub the skin harshly and do not use ointments, powders or medication unless instructed to do so by a doctor.
  • inhaled, get the sufferer to fresh air and keep him/her lying down, warm and calm. If breathing stops, use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • splashed into the eye, hold the eyelid open and gently wash the eye with clean running water for 15 minutes. Cover the eye with a clean cloth and seek medical attention immediately.
  • swallowed, read the instruction on the label - it will direct whether or not vomiting should be induced. Examples where you should not induce vomiting are pesticides that are petroleum based ('Emulsifiable Concentrate') or corrosive (acid or alkali).

The OHS Regulation requires employers to maintain a first aid kit. Consider keeping a suitable kit in each pest control vehicle.

Source: Chapter 11 Planning Emergency Procedures, Safe Use of Pesticides including Herbicides in Non-agricultural Workplaces Code of Practice 2006, WorkCover NSW

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