Wear PPE to Spray Safe

The chemical label is your friend — determine the right PPE to spray safe.

Anyone accustomed to spraying herbicides knows the job has inherent dangers, especially when working with chemicals with a higher toxicity. Ensuring you’re protected for the job is essential before beginning any spraying task.

In many situations, experienced operators know the necessity of personal protective equipment (PPE). The right clean, well-maintained PPE labeled for specific use to protect the most likely points of entry into the body — skin, mouth and respiratory system — should be made available for every operator who works directly with herbicides and pesticides. It’s not only important to have the equipment with you, but also to wear it according to specific instructions to ensure you’re safe from any potential chemical injury.

“It is very important to select the correct PPE,” according to a report from North Carolina State University Extension Pesticide Safety Education Specialist Wayne Buhler. “More is not necessarily better in the case of PPE. Select the PPE required by the label of the chemical you’re applying.”

Understand chemical-resistant versus water-resistant.

When selecting your PPE, it’s important to understand a few key terms on product labels.

If a PPE garment is “chemical-resistant,” that doesn’t mean it’s completely impervious to infiltration by many common chemicals. How strong that resistance is depends on the specific product being applied.

Correct selection of PPE is the first critical step. Follow the pesticide product label carefully when certain types of gloves, respirators, and/or other PPE are specified. For example, a specific type of glove material may be highly chemical-resistant to some pesticide products but not others. A respirator suitable for one task may not be suitable for another.

“A ‘water-resistant’ material is different than a ‘chemical-resistant’ material,” he said. “‘Chemical-resistant’ PPE is ‘material that allows no measurable movement of the pesticide being used through the material during use.’ However, ‘chemical-resistant’ aprons, coveralls, eye protection, footwear, gloves, and headgear are not equally resistant to all pesticides, under all conditions, and for the same length of time.”

Secure the right gear.

Depending on what exactly you’re doing when working around chemicals and preparing your Apache Sprayer this season, here is a checklist to run through in preparing the right PPE to spray safe. Check your chemical label to see which of the following components are required for each product and operation:

  • Aprons
  • Coveralls
  • Eye protection
  • Footwear
  • Gloves
  • Headgear
  • Respirator

Here’s more on how to select the right PPE.

Get it all in working order.

It’s important not only to have the right safety gear, but to make sure it’s inspected and fitted for each individual user. When using various PPE items together, make sure they are in good working order and will perform their safety functions as a collective system.

“It is very important to select the correct PPE. Just as important, the PPE must be working correctly every time you use it, either alone or in combination with other PPE. When several pieces of PPE are used together, they must not interfere with each other. For example, protective goggles must not interfere with the operation of a respirator,” Buhler said. “Before and after every use, check for any type of deterioration of or damage to all the components, seams, etc. of the specific reusable PPE and, if necessary, dispose of it properly.”

See more ways to make sure you spray safe in the field this year.

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