Agrochemicals: Safety

Agrochemicals: Safety

Agricultural chemicals (agrochemicals) are commonly found on farms and in rural communities. These can include any number of products, from pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers to diesel fuel or disinfectant products. Many of these products can be hazardous if used inappropriately.

Agrochemicals on Your Farm: Safety
[printable pdf version]

Agrochemicals on Your Farm: Safety

Agrochemical Usage Safety

Always read packaging labels, as it will tell you:

  • Proper use of product
  • Proper handling procedures
  • Safe storage instructions
  • First aid information

Obtain Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all chemical that you use.

  • These contain health hazard and handling information, and spill or leak procedures.
  • Have copies near the chemical storage area; keep an additional set in a separate location.

Prevent injury and exposure.

  • Guard against splashes, spills and skin contact when mixing, handling and applying chemicals.
  • At a minimum, wear, long pants, long sleeves (or coveralls) and enclosed shoes.
  • Wear additional protective equipment as recommended by the label. This may include: chemical-resistant gloves, goggles and/or face shield and an approved respirator.
  • Avoid inhaling sprays, dust and vapors.
  • Launder chemical-soiled clothing separately from other laundry and triple rinse.

Preparation and application safety measures.

  • Mix and prepare products in a well-ventilated area.
  • Use only the amount and concentration specified by the label.
  • Do not mix different products unless allowed by label directions.
  • Keep children and pets away when mixing and applying chemicals.

In case of exposure,

  • If chemicals get into your eyes, follow emergency directions on the label. Flush eyes with water for 10-15 minutes and get medical attention.
  • If you accidently swallow the chemical or become ill shortly after use, call your health care provider or get medical attention immediately! Take the chemical label with you.

If a chemical gets on your skin:

  • Immediately remove all contaminated clothing.
  • Wash the exposed area, including hair, with generous amounts of water and soap.
  • Put on fresh, clean clothes.
  • See your healthcare provider immediately.

Chemical Storage Safety

Limit storage areas to the minimum needed to discourage storing unneeded chemicals.

Store chemical in a secure area.

  • Keep chemicals in locked, weather proof storage areas. Make sure these areas are well lit.
  • Post a sign indicating the storage area contains chemicals. The sign should also include at least 2 emergency contact numbers – yours and local emergency response (e.g., law enforcement or fire).
  • Keep storage areas dry and well ventilated; keep it from freezing and extreme high temperatures.
  • Store chemicals above ground level to prevent moisture problems (rusting or disintegration).
  • Locate storage areas at a safe site that will not be subjected to flooding.
  • Keep chemicals out of reach of children and pets.

Store chemicals in their original containers.

  • Keep containers tightly closed and clearly labeled.
  • If labels become worn or damaged, re-label the container with its contents or discard the chemical.
  • Do not store chemicals in damaged containers.
  • Never use food or beverage containers to store chemicals.

Disposal Safety

Do not pour chemicals down any drain, toilet, sink or storm drain.

Do not dispose of empty containers or extra chemicals where they may be a hazard to fish, wildlife, domestic animals or water sources.

Do not save or reuse empty chemical containers.


Important Websites

National Pesticide Information Center
A database of pesticide information for all audiences. Includes general information for individuals, details on specific pesticides for farmers, and regulations for manufacturers.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
National Poison Center Hotline
Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222
American Association of Poison Control Centers
National Response Center
Report oil or chemical spills online or at 800-424-8802.
U.S. Coast Guard
Pesticide Health and Safety Information
Information and resources on pesticide health and safety issues for people, animals, and the environment.
National Pesticide Information Center
State Pesticide Regulatory Agencies
Find your state pesticide regulatory agency.
National Pesticide Information Center

Additional Agrochemical Safety Resources

Agricultural Pesticide Protective Equipment
Information on selection and use of appropriate personal protective equipment.
Colorado State University Extension
Agricultural Respiratory Protective Equipment
Factsheet discusses options for protection from air-borne contaminants on a farm or ranch. Types of respirators and their uses are included.
Colorado State University Extension
Agrochemicals and Security
Training module aims to inform readers about the potential misuses for agrochemicals, and help individuals to understand safe, secure handling of these substances.
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Chemicals/Pesticides: Mixing/Loading/Application
Website with links to a variety of extension publications for people who work with hazardous farm chemicals.
National Ag Safety Database (NASD)
Consumer Fact Sheets
A collection of documents on the safe handling of pesticides as well as methods to reduce pesticide use.
California Department of Pesticide Regulation
EPA Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides
Information aimed at protecting workers working with pesticides.
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences - Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension Pesticide Education Program
Exposure, Toxicity, and Risk of Home Pesticide Use
Website discussing types of exposure and lethal dose levels for common at-home pesticides.
Virginia Cooperative Extension
Handling and Storage of Pesticides: An Environmental Self-Assessment
Risks of pesticide contamination. Information on regulations for farmers. A self-evaluation of safety practices.
National Ag Safety Database, Clemson University Cooperative Extension
Handling Pesticides Safely
Factsheet on how to safely handle, transport, store, and clean-up pesticides.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Household Hazardous Materials - A Guide for Citizens
An interactive web-based course designed for the general public on household hazardous materials and ways to protect yourself and your family.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Personal Protective Equipment for Pesticide Handlers
Describes the personal protective equipment that should be used when applying pesticides.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Pesticide and Fertilizer Storage and Handling
Worksheet helps producers to assess chemical mixing sites and determine the level of risk to groundwater and surface water associated with each site.
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences
Pesticide Storage and Security
Factsheet on storage and security of all pesticides. Sources of additional information are also provided.
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences - Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension Pesticide Education
Safety and Health in the Use of Agrochemicals
A comprehensive safety guide for people who use agrochemicals.
International Labor Organization Training Center
Storing Pesticides Safely
How to safely store pesticides.
Virginia Cooperative Extension
Toxicity of Pesticides
Factsheet explains types of toxicities and contains toxicity information for common pesticides.
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences - Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension Pesticide Education Program
What to Do in a Pesticide Emergency
Document discussing pesticide injuries and first aid measures that can be taken.
National Ag Safety Database, California Environmental Protection Agency Department of Pesticide Regulation