September is Farm Safety Month, so what better time than to review just one of the things that our farmers and ranchers have to worry about: pests!  In their fight against pests, they must use pesticides, running the risk of being exposed to harmful chemicals.

Pesticides help our agriculture industry through the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) Integrated Pest Management system.  In agricultural settings, their approach is to:
(1)    Use bio-pesticides, which are less risky.
(2)    Decide when the pest is an economic threat.
(3)    Determine what type of pesticide is needed.
(4)    Try rotating crops.
(5)    Use broadcast spraying of a non-specific pesticide as a last resort.

New EPA safety requirements are meant to protect agricultural workers against pesticides used in crop fields.  Since soil fumigants are restricted-use pesticides, only specially trained personnel can apply and oversee these types of operations, which involves injecting pesticides into the soil to create a gas that kills several types of soil-borne pests in the fields.  This type of pesticide can cause health problems ranging from eye or respiratory irritation to more severe and irreversible effects.

All workers on farms need to use caution when applying pesticides:

  • Read labels on pesticide containers.
  • Handle pesticides in well-ventilated areas, and on calm days.
  • Never store pesticides in food or drink containers.
  • Don’t mix pesticides or drain sprayer near pond, stream, or well.
  • Obey restrictions at entries and watch for warning signs.
  • Wear appropriate PPE, i.e., goggles/wrap-around safety glasses, gloves, respirators, etc.

Pest control is just one of the many problems that our agriculture industry copes with as they produce the nation’s food.  Keeping farm workers safe from the effects of pesticides is foremost.