Handling pesticides safely means having a plan in place to handle trouble, a South Dakota State University specialist said.

Jim Wilson, SDSU Extension pesticide applicator training/certification specialist, said a 1995 state regulation already requires certified pesticide applicators have a written plan outlining proper handling procedures and spill responses. A blank example of the plan and guidelines for what the plan should contain is available as SDSU Extension Extra 8109, "Handling Pesticides Properly." Get a copy from your local county Extension office or find it online at http://agbiopubs.sdstate.edu/articles/ExEx8109.pdf.

Applicators who already have a written plan should review it as the spray season gets under way, Wilson said.

"Applicators need to think about worst-case scenarios and take steps to prevent those now," Wilson said. "When you are in the middle of a field and have a leaking hose, that's not the best time to have to think about how to control the leak."

Wilson offered some basic tips for avoiding trouble or being prepared to deal with it:

  • Carefully choose the areas where you mix and load pesticides. If possible, do it at varying locations in a field where that pesticide is labeled for use. Wilson explains that spilling a very small amount at different locations in a field most likely won't cause trouble. But spilling a small amount at the same site over several occasions could cause contamination.
  • Don't fill or mix in the farmyard, and take special care to stay away from wells. If there is a spill, the pesticide could follow the well casing down into the aquifer.
  • Consider building a spill response kit, including such items as duct or electrician's tape, washer-headed screws, caulking or sealant, absorbent materials, extra hoses, hose clamps, plastic tarps or bags, a shovel.
  • Keep a supply of critical parts or those that commonly fail on hand in case a leak or other problem develops.
  • Carefully read and follow directions on the labels of pesticides you plan to use. Each pesticide label tells what protective clothing to wear and gives any special handling instructions for that pesticide.