Pesticides are often a necessary part of farm production. Agricultural chemicals present risks to farmers, agricultural workers, children, livestock and the environment if not used and stored properly.
Farmers generally only purchase enough agricultural chemicals for one growing season, reducing the need for long-term storage. However, it is sometimes necessary to store agricultural chemicals. The first step for safe agricultural chemical storage is to know exactly what you’re dealing with. Request a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) when you’re purchasing agricultural chemicals. Material Safety Data Sheets are available from chemical producers and distributers. An MSDS provides product information including: hazardous ingredients, fire or explosion hazard data, physical data, first aid measures, preventative measures and preparation information.
Farmers storing agricultural chemicals are responsible for familiarizing themselves with this information and understanding how to store the chemical based on its MSDS. If a pesticide has been poured into another container, label each container properly, listing all the qualities of the stored chemical giving farm workers critical information to prevent inadvertent exposure.
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Keep a detailed inventory of all stored chemicals. Maintaining an up-to-date list (and Material Safety Data Sheets) of all stored chemicals should be standard practice on any farm operation. In case of a fire or a natural disaster like flooding, it’s important to be able to quickly and accurately identify any hazards to farm inhabitants, emergency personnel and the environment.
Chemicals have different reactions with different types of substances. Make sure that all chemicals are stored according to their chemical storage group. For example, acids and bases should never be stored near each other, neither should flammables and oxidizers. These chemicals should be separated by a chemically resistant physical barrier, a form of secondary containment (such as impervious bins or trays that are big enough to contain the contents of the container in case of a spill) or by keeping them far enough apart that it would be impossible for the chemicals to come into contact in case of a spill.
Simply keeping incompatible chemicals stored separately isn’t enough to ensure safety. Choose storage locations carefully. A room with good ventilation away from direct sunlight is ideal. Chemicals should never be stored where animals are housed or where children have access. Once the containers are properly labelled and tightly sealed, they should be placed off the ground with plenty of room from the edge to make sure they don’t fall.
After agricultural chemicals have been properly labelled, kept in the correct chemical storage group and safely placed in an area where there’s no chance of them getting knocked over or spilled, producers should make sure the area is secure. Always use a lock to keep unauthorized people out of the chemical storage area. Children get adventurous, and thieves may seek out chemicals. You can never be too safe in making sure their chemicals are impossible to get to without the right key.
Safe agricultural chemical storage really boils down to a few simple points:
- Know the chemical and the associated hazards
- Keep all agricultural chemicals correctly labelled
- Inventory all stored chemicals
- Keep your agricultural chemicals properly segregated
- Make sure the chemical storage area is secure
By following these steps, you can protect youself, your workers and your family from potentially deadly chemicals. For more information about Farm Safety, please visit the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association website or follow CASA on twitter @planfarmsafety.