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Working safely with pesticides

Safe Work Australia has published a guide for registered medical practitioners engaged by businesses to carry out or supervise health monitoring for people working around pesticides. It provides practical guidance about requirements under work health and safety laws for health monitoring.

The organophosphate pesticides (OPs) health monitoring guide highlights the following work activities involving OPs require special attention when assessing exposure:

  • transport, storage and distribution
  • agricultural and horticultural activities like mixing, loading and applications where direct handling of the chemical occurs
  • veterinary activities like cattle and sheep dipping
  • seasonal field workers exposed to pesticide residues.

Health monitoring is required where there is significant risk to workers' health because of exposure to organophosphates pesticides.

It is important to get a copy of the safety data sheet (SDS) for agricultural chemicals being used, as the SDS provides more complete health risk and safe handling information compared with the product label. It's vital to follow all the safe use instructions in the SDS for workers who may be involved in decanting and diluting concentrated/full strength products.

Glyphosate, while not an organophosphate, is a widely used pesticide.It is possible to measure glyphosate directly in blood and urine, but there is no standard with which the blood or urine test result can be compared that will indicate if there is any potential adverse health effect.

Testing can, however, determine if there has been any uptake in a worker's body. WHSQ has information on pesticides at worksafe.qld.gov.au.

Safe Work Australia's organophosphate pesticides guide is at safeworkaustralia.gov.au.

The guide should be read in conjunction with the following: