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Competency Area 8: Protecting Humans from Pesticide Exposure

PO 55. Describe protective gear used during mixing and application of pesticides.

Always wear unlined, elbow length chemical-resistant gloves when handling all pesticides. The elbow length gloves protect your wrists and prevent pesticides from running down your sleeves into your gloves. Glove materials include nitrile, butyl, neoprene, natural rubber (latex), polyethylene, polyvinylchloride (PVC) and barrier laminates like 4H® and Silver Shield®. Current research indicates that nitrile, butyl, and neoprene offer good protection for both dry and liquid pesticides. Neoprene is not recommended for fumigants. Natural rubber is only effective for dry formulations. Never use leather or cotton gloves. Cotton and leather gloves can be more hazardous than no protection at all because they absorb and hold the pesticide close to your skin for long periods of time. Clean and store gloves for reuse. Replace gloves periodically because most materials will accumulate pesticide residues over time. Nitrile and neoprene gloves can be used for 120 to 160 work hours. Replace PVC and natural rubber gloves after 40 work hours. Slash discarded gloves so that they cannot be used by someone else. Wrap in a plastic bag and put with an empty pesticide container for proper disposal.

Body Covering
Regular work attire of long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, shoes, and socks are acceptable for slightly toxic (category III) and relatively non-toxic (category IV) pesticides. Many applicators prefer work uniforms and cotton coveralls that fit the regular-work-attire description and provide equal protection. Applicators should reserve one set of clothing for pesticide use only. Launder and store separately from all other clothing. To apply moderately toxic (category II) or highly toxic (category I) chemicals, wear a clean, dry protective suit that covers your entire body from wrists to ankles. The sleeves must be long enough to overlap with gloves. Openings, such as pockets, should be kept to a minimum. Protective suits are one- or two-piece garments, such as coveralls. They should be worn over regular work clothes and underwear. Protective suits may be disposable or reusable. They are available in woven, nonwoven, coated and laminated fabrics. The degree of protection increases as one moves from woven to nonwoven to coated and laminated fabrics. Read the manufacturer's label for specific information related to care and intended use. Good quality construction, proper fit, and careful maintenance or disposal are also important. Fabrics can be made more resistant to pesticide penetration by laminating fabric layers and/or by applying chemical coatings. Chemical –resistant protective suits of coated or laminated fabrics are a must if you (or your helper) will be in a mist or spray that would wet your clothing. Coated and laminated fabrics resist water penetration, but not all of these fabrics qualify as chemical resistant. Chemical-resistant suits are recommended when handling highly toxic (category I) pesticides.

Wear a chemical-resistant apron when repairing or cleaning spray equipment and when mixing or loading. This is a good practice for all pesticides. It is essential for pesticides of category I and II toxicity. Aprons offer excellent protection against spills and splashes of liquid formulations, but they are also useful when handling dry formulations such as wettable powders. Aprons can be easily worn over other protective clothing and are comfortable enough for use in warm climates. Choose an apron that extends from the neck to at least the knees. Some aprons have attached sleeves. Nitrile, butyl, and neoprene offer the best protection. PVC and natural rubber are also available.

Wear unlined chemical-resistant boots which cover your ankles when handling or applying moderately or highly toxic pesticides. Purchase boots with thick soles. Nitrile and butyl boots appear to give the best protection. Do not use leather boots. If chemical-resistant boots are too hot to wear in warm climates or too difficult to put on, try wearing chemical-resistant overboots with washable shoes (such as canvas sneakers or layered socks.) Remember to put your pant legs outside the boots, otherwise the pesticide can drain into the boot. Wash boots after each use and dry thoroughly inside and out to remove all pesticide residue.

Goggles or Face Shield
Wear shielded safety glasses; a full-face respirator; snug-fitting, non-fogging goggles; or a full-face shield whenever the chemical could possibly contact your eyes. Safety glasses with brow and side shields are acceptable for low exposure situations. Always wear goggles or full-face respirator when you are pouring or mixing concentrates or working in a highly toxic spray or dust. In high exposure situations, when both face and eye protection is needed, a face shield can be worn over goggles. Clean them after each use.

Head and Neck Coverings
The hair and skin on your neck and head must be protected too. This is most important in situations where exposure from overhead dusts or sprays is possible, such as in airblast spraying operations or flagging. Chemical-resistant rain hats, wide brimmed hats, and washable hard hats (with no absorbing liner) are good. In cool weather, chemical-resistant parkas with attached hoods are a good choice. If the attached hood is not being used, tuck it inside the neckline so that it will not collect pesticides. Do not use cotton or felt hats; they absorb pesticides.