All in a Spray's Work
man using hand held pesticide sprayer

Published on

September 30 2019

What responsibilities do professionals in pesticides have? In this article Ian Sumpter, Lantra Instructor and Assessor shares his thoughts and advice for pesticide users as well as some of the concerns he has over certain areas of the industry.

Ian also founded Lantra Approved Provider Mow-Sure, head over to their website to get in touch.

As professionals in pesticide application we fully understand that we need to undertake training and pass an assessment to safely use pesticides. Sadly, in some cases, people feel this does not apply to them. One of the worst examples I have come across, was a business that had a member of staff applying glyphosate. He had no supervision, no licence, no PPE and was using commercial glyphosate much stronger than the recommended maximum dose rate. There is no part of this that is acceptable, and I am pleased to say it was stopped immediately. Going forward the member of staff was given training and passed the independent assessment. Adequate PPE was supplied, and processes were put into place to ensure safe and correct future application.

amenity sprayer

Once training and an assessment have been successfully completed, what are our responsibilities to use pesticides safely and to maintain our own up to date skills and knowledge (Continuing Professional Development)? I always recommend anyone applying pesticides attend refresher training on a regular basis. This will help to increase knowledge and skills and resolve any bad habits that may have been picked up. Refresher training will update the operator on current legislation and supports the business in complying with their health and safety obligations. Most importantly it keeps everyone safe, is best practice and helps safeguard the environment. Lantra offers a suite of pesticide application courses including certificated refreshers.

When out and about, I still see plenty of occasions where people are spraying weed killer with no PPE. As competent operators it is our responsibility to comply with the training we’ve received. We have our safe processes in place and follow the chemical manufacturers' instructions when applying pesticides. If some are failing to adhere to wearing the correct PPE it begs the question what else is not being done correctly?

One of the biggest recent changes to how we apply pesticides has been that the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) requires that all pesticide application equipment (PAE) is tested on a regular basis. The legal requirements are contained in the Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012. All types of Pesticide Application Equipment must be tested to certain timescales depending on the age of the machine. Further information can be found within the regulations on the frequency of testing required.

The legislation relates to all sectors; agriculture, horticulture, amenity and fruit. For anyone applying a professional pesticide, the equipment must be tested and requires a National Sprayer Testing Scheme (NSTS) test certificate. Application equipment that does not currently require an NSTS test are knapsacks, handheld and pedestrian equipment. However, within the Sustainable Use Directive, these need to be inspected by a competent person, repairs made as required and a record kept. There is a check sheet that can be downloaded from the NSTS website and kept as part of your record keeping process.

"When out and about, I still see plenty of occasions where people are spraying weed killer with no PPE"

Only 672 amenity sprayers were tested in 2018, this is a 30% reduction from 2017. This number includes equipment used by golf courses, sports grounds, maintenance contractors, schools and weed control contractors. These figures show that as an industry we are falling short of complying with the Sustainable Use Directive. If we then look at statistics for 2018, only 53% of sprayers tested passed with no faults. That equates to 47% of sprayers tested requiring varying levels of faults corrected to bring them back to being fit for purpose. The question would be how many sprayers out there not tested are currently fit for purpose?   

Not having a sprayer tested may, in part, be due to the confusing phased introduction of testing by the EU and different dates for testing to be completed. The simple way to understand it is, if your sprayer is over 5 years old, it requires a current test. As an industry, we believe best practice is to have your sprayer tested annually to NSTS certification. Some manufacturers go above and beyond to comply with best industry practice by supplying new sprayers with an NSTS test certificate as part of the Pre-Delivery Inspection.

If you have a sprayer that does not have an NSTS sticker and current NSTS report you can contact a local test centre through the NSTS website or contact us directly for further information.

If, as an industry, we expect to have a voice on future legislation changes, we need to address this apathy and embrace Sprayer testing to NSTS standards as part of a sustainable strategy for the long-term use of pesticides.

Article by Lantra Instructor and Assessor Ian Sumpter

agricultural pesticide sprayer spraying field

Catch us at Saltex 2019!