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Dangers of exposing ag workers to chemicals at point of use


[via Industrial Safety & Hygiene News]

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Every day handlers and applicators transfer potentially hazardous chemicals and concentrates such as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and liquid fertilizers from large drums into smaller containers or mixing tanks.

This transfer process can have serious consequences if manual “tip-and-pour” techniques or poorly designed pumps are used.

Whether the chemicals are toxic, corrosive, or flammable, the danger of accidental contact can pose a severe hazard to workers.

Each year 1,800-3,000 preventable occupational incidents involving pesticide exposure are reported.

“When handling pesticides, toxicity and corrosiveness are the main dangers, but even organic pesticides can be harmful if there is exposure,” said Kerry Richards, Ph.D., President Elect of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators and former Director of Penn State’s Pesticide Safety Education Program. “No matter what their toxicity level, all chemicals, even those that are organic are a particular contact exposure risk if they are corrosive.”

Richards, who works with the National Pesticide Safety Education Center, has seen and heard many examples of worker and environmental exposure from pesticides in over 30 years of pesticide safety education experience.

“Exposure risk is highest for those loading chemicals into mix tanks because it is more concentrated and hazardous before diluted with water,” she said.  “Any time you lose containment of the chemical, such as a spill, the risks can be serious and spiral out of control.”

Corrosive chemicals can severely burn skin or eyes, and many chemical pesticides are toxic when touched or inhaled.

“Some organic herbicides are so highly acidic that they essentially burn the waxy cuticle off the above ground parts of plants, killing them,” said Richards.  “If you splash it in your eye or on your skin, it can burn in the same way and cause significant damage.”

Traditional practices of transferring liquid chemicals suffer from a number of drawbacks. Manual techniques, such as the tip-and-pour method, are still common today. Tipping heavy barrels or even 2.5 gallon containers, however, can lead to a loss of control and over pouring.

A number of pump types exist for chemical transfer (rotary, siphon, lever-action, piston and electric), but most are not engineered as a sealed, contained system.

Closed systems can dramatically improve the safety and efficiency of chemical transfer. California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation requires a closed system for mixing and loading certain pesticides so handlers are not directly exposed to the pesticide.

Source: GoatThroat Pump