PPE Shortages for Pesticide Applicators

This spring pesticide applicators are likely to encounter a new challenge getting the personal protective equipment (PPE) required to make their pesticide applications.  The emergency needs that our first responders and medical care providers have for PPE in the COVID-19 war have led to shortages of all types of PPE, even for types not typically worn by medical personnel.  By the time that PPE become more readily available, it will likely be too late for many spring (or even summer) pesticide applications.

Every pesticide product label includes a list of the required personal protective equipment. So … what should farmers and pesticide applicators do in this situation? First, If you can’t acquire and properly use the label required PPE, don’t make the application of that pesticide. Carefully review the labels of the pesticide products you plan to use for the coming growing season to learn what PPE are required to use those products. If there are any PPE items that you do not have (or cannot get), then choose another pesticide product that does not require the PPE. One possible solution that has been advanced is to purchase higher level protection types of PPE that are not used by health care providers. Disadvantages to this approach are that these are usually hotter and more uncomfortable, more expensive, and availability perhaps just as limited, especially of replaceable parts such as the cartridges used in respirators.

Alternative products or alternative control methods that don’t require the PPE are probably your best bet. Many common pesticides require only: long sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes, and socks. Other products have more stringent PPE requirements. Online product label databases such as Agrian.com are very useful for searching out the PPE requirements for agricultural pesticides before purchase.  Whatever the label says, you must be in compliance.  Your health and safety is at stake and, – the label is the law!

Used and modified from the original with permission of Dean Slates, Ohio State University Extension Agriculture Educator, Emeritus.

Online resources

Respirators in short supply due to COVID-19

Respirator infographic

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