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We use pesticides to kill or control those pesky organisms such as insects, weeds, rodents, fungi, bacteria and viruses that can cause damage to crops, people or animals. However, many of these same pesticides can pose a threat to the health of the people who work with them.
"Pesticides" is a general term used to describe a very large and diverse group of chemicals or products that kills pests, or prevents or reduces the damage a pest may cause. Pesticides can also include any substance that is used to modify a plant's growth, drop a plant's leaves prematurely, or act as a drying agent. Pesticides are usually chemicals, but they can also be made from natural materials such as plants, bacteria, etc.
How workers can be exposed
Workers may be exposed to pesticides in many ways including:
Exposure to a pesticide can occur through your skin, eyes, and mouth and by breathing it into your lungs. The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide and other chemicals that are in the product you are using. Some pesticides can affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes, and some pesticides may cause cancer. The type and severity of effects depends on the amount you are exposed to, and how long or often you are exposed. It is very important to always get specific information about the exact product you are using so you can take steps to safeguard your health. This information can be obtained from your employer and/or the pesticide supplier.
Precautions to take when working with pesticides
Always read the label and follow the directions for the pesticide you are using.
Minimize your exposure. Always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as recommended on the label, Material Safety Data Sheet or product fact sheet. Depending on the pesticide, you may have to wear coveralls, long pants, long sleeved shirts, gloves, boots, goggles, a face shield, a hat, and/or a respirator. There are different types of chemical protective clothing. The specific type you will require will depend on the product.
Keep the container below your eye level to help avoid splashing or spilling the pesticide into your eyes and face. If the pesticide comes in a bag, open it with a knife or scissors that won't be used for anything else. Be sure there is good ventilation and lighting in the area where you are mixing the pesticide. Provide temporary extra ventilation, where necessary, to remove vapour or aerosol when spraying indoors.
Don't accidentally eat it. Always follow the recommended waiting time between pesticide application and the harvest (picking or eating) of fruits or vegetables. After you spray a pesticide, all surfaces that may contact food must be washed and rinsed with water before re-use. Also, do not use your mouth to siphon liquids from containers or to blow out clogged lines, nozzles, etc. Wash your hands and face after working with the pesticide, especially before eating or smoking, before leaving for the day or after using the toilet.
Don't accidentally wear it. Keep equipment in good working order and free of leaks. Do not mix, spray or dust into the wind. Change your clothes after applying the pesticide, and wash them before wearing them again. Do not mix with regular or family laundry. Use the hottest water and highest water level settings on your machine. Do not overfill the load. Wash heavily soiled clothing two to three times. Hang the clothing to dry in sunlight, if possible. Run an empty full cycle with detergent to clean the washer before washing other clothing. Leather boots, shoes, belts, watch bands or jackets splashed with pesticides cannot be decontaminated and must be discarded.
Don't keep it around. Clean up spills immediately and dispose of the waste and empty containers according to directions on the label. Calculate how much product you will need ahead of time and do not purchase or store more than you need.
Don't misuse it. Do not use more pesticide than is recommended (twice the product will not be twice as effective). Only use a pesticide for the purpose it was intended for. Never burn it or pour it down a drain. Always mix the pesticide at the recommended rate and amounts. Many spray pesticides are flammable, so follow the instructions carefully.
Don't spread it. Schedule applications of a pesticide when other workers are least likely to be exposed. Never spray on a very windy day, and make sure the spray blows away from you or from anyone else. To minimize drift, reduce the distance between the nozzle and the target area. Finally, never place rodent or insect baits and traps where children or pets can reach them.
Tips & Tools
When a heavy load has to be moved or lifted, using a hoist can make the job easier and safer. A hoist is a device used to lift or move material. Although there are different types of hoists, the precautions that you should take when working with them are similar.
In addition to always following the manufacturer's recommendations for the hoist you are using, the tips below will help ensure that the load gets lifted or moved safely.
Inspecting and maintaining hoists
Health and Safety To Go
This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts describe the different illnesses caused by heat stress and tips for prevention, and feature an encore of how to beat dehydration.
Featured Podcast: Heat Stress and Your Health
Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at increased risk of heat stress. CCOHS explains the different illnesses caused by heat stress and offers tips for prevention.
The podcast runs 8:18 Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Drink Up to Beat Dehydration
CCOHS outlines the signs of dehydration and how to prevent it when working in the summer heat.
The podcast runs 5:52 Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
Whether you work in a hot smelting plant or outdoors in the summer months, heat exposure can be dangerous. Very hot environments can overwhelm the body's coping mechanisms and lead to a variety of serious health conditions.
Heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heat stroke. CCOHS has developed a poster that shows the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention - it can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is delayed or not given. Display this awareness poster so workers, managers and supervisors can all be vigilant and take action if the need occurs.
The poster is printed double-sided, with English on one side and French on the other.
Download the Heat-Related Illness poster from CCOHS.
Read the OSH Answers fact sheet: Health effects of hot environments.
Get the Working in Hot Environments: Health and Safety Guide.
Download the Keep Your Cool poster.
Listen to the CCOHS podcast Working in the Heat: How Hot is Too Hot?
Workplace Health & Safety Matters
Recently back from attending a celebration at the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa , Steve Horvath, President and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety shared his reflections in a recent blog post on the event.
It was my privilege to be invited this past week by Porfirio Mayo, First Secretary and Consul to Canada at the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa, for the celebration of the 116th anniversary of the independence of the Philippines.
It was not only a wonderful occasion to appreciate the culture of its people, but also an opportunity to discuss with Mr. Mayo, the expanding relationship between the Philippines' Health and Safety Agency and CCOHS. Our products can play an active role in the advancement of prevention programs throughout Southeast Asia. We discussed our future potential and intention to formalize the relationship between our organizations, not only through CCOHS's products, but also through the promotion of health and safety in the Republic through our affiliations with international agencies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) and World Health Organization (WHO).
Also present was the Korean Ambassador to Canada, and we had a pleasant chat about the long-standing relationship between the Korean Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) and CCOHS. Korea will be hosting the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) World Congress in 2015.
Congratulations to the Philippines on their milestone, and we look forward to further collaborations.
Read Steve's blog.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2017, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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