mobile feed weather

Visit our new site for more help on spraying pesticides with a knapsack sprayer: review our advice on which personal protective equipment to use and learn more about when you might use it.


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

N.B. This is a text only version of slides 1 - 15 of the training module "Personal protective equipment (PPE)" which is also available to download as a PowerPoint presentation or view as a Flash Movie. 

We welcome your feedback on this site. Please take a few moments to let me ( know what you think:

The 5 Golden Rules

  1. Before using any crop protection product/pesitcides, always read its label and make sure you understand all safety needs
  2. Handle crop protection products carefully at all times to avoid contact or contamination
  3. Maintain sprayers well, fixing, for example, any leaks before starting an application
  4. Practice good personal hygiene
  5. Use appropriate protective clothing as last line of defence and not to become careless and  increase exposure risks.

Avoiding exposure risks

Reduce potential contamination through the adoption of good working practices:

  • Always fix leaking sprayers before use.
  • Use nozzles that produce largest drop size advised by label (Equipment that produce finer droplets are more likely to cause contamination)
  • Higher water volume rates are inherently safer than those more concentrated. Use within label stated ranges.
  • Use spraying equipment that meets the FAO recommended specifications.
  • Always direct the spraying nozzle downwind.
  • Avoid spraying in very windy conditions.
  • Avoid walking through vegetation that has just been sprayed.
  • Immediately wash any splashes of undiluted product from the skin and eyes.

Exposure Studies

  • Most operator contamination is likely during the mixing process and if using leaking application equipment.
  • Most contamination during spraying was on the hands, due to leaking trigger assemblies.
  • Product absorption rates through bare skin of operators will vary with location on body and the condition of the skin. Scratches and sores absorb more product than unbroken skin.
  • Studies identify not just how much exposure is likely but where, too.
___________________ ______________________
Location on body Relative absorption
  through bare skin %
___________________ ______________________
Forearm 8.6
Palm of hands 11.8
Ball of foot 13.5
Abdomen 18.4
Scalp 32.1
Forehead 36.3
Ear canal 46.5
Genitalia 100

Source: University of Florida IFAS Extension

  • In general - where skin is ‚thinner‘ and where that area has major blood supplies then the greater the rate of absorption.

PPE: Label Information

  • Every product label will identify the protective equipment requirements for both measuring/mixing as well as for application.
  • This information is shown as pictograms – to help total understanding by all product users, and is grouped into the following activities.
Example pictograms (15Kb JPEG)
Example pictograms

Use of pictograms that help ensure product safety.

Examples of pictograms identifying protective equimpment requirements. (37Kb JPEG)
Examples of pictograms identifying protective equimpment requirements.
Pictogram for an example of a WHO Class ll product (moderately hazardous) (24Kb JPEG)
Pictogram for an example of a WHO Class ll product (moderately hazardous)

Personal Protective Equipment can vary with products and their use

PPE can vary with products and their use; lower risk of exposure (20Kb JPEG)
Lower risk of exposure
Medium risk of exposure (16Kb JPEG)
Medium risk of exposure
Higher risk of exposure; pouring spray into spraying equipment (16Kb JPEG)
Higher risk of exposure

Storage and maintenance of PPE

  • Always store protective equipment separately from crop protection products.
  • Wash gloves, aprons, boots and face shields after use.
  • Wash spray clothing separately from domestic washing.
  • Change respirator filters following the manufacturers guidelines.

Typical key items of PPE

Spraying diluted product solutions:

  • Boots or non permeable footwear
  • Coverall, 2 piece suit or long sleeved shirt & long trousers
  • Broad brimmed hat

For preparing undiluted products also use:

  • Gloves: Nitrile gloves give best protection
  • Face shield or goggles
  • Apron
  • Respirator - needed for volatile products or as shown on the label

PPE required by local legislation will be shown on the label

Standard (minimal) PPE for body protection when spraying diluted product

Least Preferred: Work Clothes consisting of long sleeved shirt and long trousers

Better: Work Clothes as above but used only for pesticide application

Preferred: 2 piece suit or coverall specifically designed for use as PPE

Further safety considerations when mixing & loading pesticides

Standard PPE = Normal Work Clothes (long sleeved shirt, long trousers)
+ Boots 
+ Gloves 
+ Eye Protection (goggles or face shield) 
+ Dust mask (dry formulations only)

Standard PPE (as above) + extra protection =
+ Coverall (double layer)
+ Apron
+ Respiratory protection

Factors affecting risk when mixing and loading

Factors reducing risks 
* Formulation type 
* Water soluble bags 
* Low acute toxicity/ irritation 
* Closed transfer system 
* Small quantities handled 

Factors increasing risks
* Solvent based formulations
* High vapour pressure
* High acute toxicity/irritation
* Poor equipment choice/use
* Inappropriate container size/type

PPE: Safety considerations when spraying

Standard PPE = Normal work clothes (long sleeved shirt, long trousers) + boots

Standard PPE + Extra protection
+/- Coverall (double layer)
+/- Poncho (partial double layer)
+/- Gloves
+/- Broad brimmed hat
+/- Eye protection
+/- Respiratory protection

Factors affecting risk when spraying

Factors reducing risk 
* Tractor mounted sprayer 
* Well maintained knapsack sprayer 
* Knapsack spraying with nozzle below waist height 
* Tractor with cab
* Small area to treat
* Spot treatment 
* Bare soil treatment 

Factors increasing risk
* Leaking knapsack
* Spraying with nozzle above head height
* High crops (tree crops, cotton,...)
* Spray gun use in tree crops overhead
* Glasshouse [confined] crops
* Frequent, long term, users who are inadequately trained
* Product characteristics (e.g. High dermal absorption, volatility,...)



Machera, K., Goumenou, M., Kapetanakis, E., Kalamarakis, A., Glass, C.R., (2003) Determination of Potential Dermal and Inhalation Operator Exposure to Malathion in Greenhouses with the Whole Body Dosimetry Method. The Annals of Occupational Hygiene Vol. 47, No. 1.  pp. 61-70.

Matthews, G. (2002) OPERATOR EXPOSURE TO PESTICIDES. Pesticide Outlook Volume 13, Issue 6, 2002 pp 233-237 (3.09 MB pdf file)

Matthews, G. (2002) SAFER PESTICIDE APPLICATION IN AFRICA Pesticide Outlook Volume 13, Issue 5, 2002 pp 197-198 (347Kb pdf file)