Handling pesticides safely means having a plan in place to handle trouble, a South Dakota State University (SDSU) specialist says.

Jim Wilson, SDSU Extension pesticide applicator training/certification specialist, says a 1995 state regulation already requires certified pesticide applicators have a written plan outlining proper handling procedures and spill responses.

But applicators shouldn't be content with having a written plan, Wilson says, they should know what's in it and plan ahead to avoid trouble.

"Applicators need to think about worst-case scenarios and take steps to prevent those now," Wilson says. "When you're in the middle of a field with a cracked tank that's leaking it's not the time to think, 'How am I going to deal with this?'"

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 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.