Safety Professional applicators know the importance of safety procedures and protective equipment when handling herbicides. Although the label is the law, accidents do happen, and each applicator needs to minimize his or her chance for exposure. Following label directions is the first place to start.

Dow AgroSciences also has dedicated VM specialists who can help train herbicide applicators on appropriate safety tips for any vegetation management program.

Ultimately, it is up to each individual to incorporate safe practices, procedures and personal protective equipment (PPE) on the job. Below are some general tips for handling herbicides.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Professional herbicide applicators know the importance of safety procedures and equipment when handling herbicides. Although the label is the law, accidents do happen, and each applicator needs to minimize his or her chance for exposure. It’s important to follow label directions and adhere to proper PPE.

Here are some general tips herbicide mixers, handlers and applicators should follow when on an application site:

  • Put on clean clothes every morning. When washing clothes, be sure to wash PPE separately from other laundry.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Wear chemical-resistant gloves when the label requires it or when there is prolonged or frequent contact. Use gloves that are made of waterproof material.
  • Wear the proper footwear as needed for the herbicide and site.
  • Use protective eyewear when the label directs.
  • Wear a hat or helmet to protect your hair and scalp.

How to read a label/MSDS

Pesticide labels are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and describe allowable use of a product. Along with the MSDS, the label is the main source of information about how to use the product safely and legally. Information on a pesticide label includes:

  • Name of product
  • Chemical and common name of the active ingredient
  • Ingredient statement, including percent of content and type of formulation
  • Name and address of manufacturer
  • EPA registration and establishment numbers
  • Signal words and symbols
  • Pesticide precautionary statement
  • Worker Protection Standard requirements and precautions
  • Statement of practical treatment
  • Directions for use

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

  • Content is specified and required by the EPA
  • Information includes handling and storage, first aid, exposure controls, physical and chemical properties, environmental data and disposal considerations

Applicator safety tips

When handling herbicides on-site, always follow proper safety precautions. Keep in mind the importance of and safety behind making the mixtures, applying the products and cleaning up after an application.

When mixing products:

  • Be aware of all mixing requirements and procedures indicated on the product labels.
  • Keep containers below eye level when opening and pouring.
  • Keep fill hoses above water level in the spray tank to prevent back-siphoning.
  • Be aware of wind direction before pouring to minimize exposure downwind.

When applying products:

  • Determine wind direction to avoid drift onto sensitive areas.
  • Check equipment for loose connections or cracked hoses.
  • Test equipment to ensure proper functioning. Make necessary repairs before each use.
  • Minimize overhead spraying.

When cleaning up after an application:

  • Use a nozzle brush or other appropriate device to clear clogged nozzles.
  • Follow storage and disposal instructions found on the label based on the herbicide container size used.
  • Be sure to thoroughly clean spray equipment before using to apply any other herbicides.
  • Use a returnable, refillable container management system to reduce your liability of improper container disposal and reduce worker exposure.