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What chemicals do you use on your farm?

05/07/2018

What chemicals do you use on your farm? Which ones are flammable and which ones can cause health issues? How do these chemicals need to be handled safely, and what needs to be done if exposed and need first aid? You should know the answers to these questions.

Whether in the home, shop, or field, chemicals exist in many situations in agriculture. Common products include household cleaners, fuels, pesticides, fertilizers, and maintenance supplies. Start by knowing what products you have in bulk supply where there could be significant exposure, like anhydrous ammonia, propane, and gasoline. Understand your pesticides, since it just makes sense to limit your exposure to a substance intended to kill a weed, insect, or rodent.

The container label typically has good information as to hazard warnings, what type of personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear (i.e. goggles, chemical gloves, or long sleeves), and required first aid if exposed. More detailed information can be found on the chemical’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS), which can typically be found by doing a search on the internet by the product name and manufacturer. The SDS has 16 sections that give good safety information, including specific hazards, PPE to wear, first aid, and flammability concerns.

Limiting exposure by using the chemical in well ventilated areas, proper PPE, and practicing good hygiene goes a long way for chemical safety. Keep chemicals out of your system by washing your hands before eating food such as an apple or ham sandwich. Avoid exposing family to the chemicals that got on your clothes from spills or overspray by wearing disposable coveralls or changing cloths before giving hugs or sitting on furniture. Always launder contaminated clothing separately, and never with other clothing to “make a full load.”

Make sure all your containers, large and small, are properly labeled to identify the contents. A common problem is to use an unlabeled portable container to transfer a chemical where it then sits in the shop for a while, and the product eventually gets misused or left as unknown waste. Do not use a plastic water bottle to transfer or store a chemical since it may look like a beverage to another worker or child.

Several decades ago employees routinely were getting sick from exposure to hazardous materials in their workplace, and had no idea of the dangers from those chemicals. “Right to Know” regulations were created to require companies to educate employees on chemical hazards, proper means to handle, ensure clear labeling, and emergency procedures. It is a good practice to implement at work and in the home, regardless if a requirement.

Kevin Frye serves the FS System as GROWMARK’s safety services manager. 


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