Personal protective equipment, or PPE as it is commonly referred, used to be an acronym that the average person may not have understood. That’s not the case anymore. The coronavirus public health crisis has cemented the term and its vital importance into everyone’s lexicon.
Clearly, PPE is extremely important in health care, but it is equally important in our industry. Though not always popular, especially in hot weather, PPE’s purpose is to ensure the health and safety of workers. And if that’s not reason enough to wear it, it is also the law. An applicator is legally responsible to follow the PPE requirements listed on the product label. To avoid hefty fines, be sure you are following regulations.
The recommended protection will vary from product to product based on the type of formulation, the toxicity of the pesticide and the potential exposure to the body. Always read the label carefully to determine the required PPE for both application and mixing. Here’s a review of the most common PPE requirements for lawn care operators.
- Protective clothing. Many pesticide labels require long-sleeved shirts and long pants when mixing, loading and applying the product. There is no exception for hot or humid weather. Coveralls may also be listed for certain chemicals and can be worn over a layer of clothing.
- Footwear. Shoes and socks are often the minimum requirement on many labels, but comfortable waterproof boots combined with a chemical-resistant shoe covering are a smart choice. They can be cleaned easily at the end of the day.
- Gloves. Protection for your hands is essential. Most labels will specify chemical-resistant gloves ≥14 mils thick, and some may list examples of suitable types, such as nitrile, neoprene or butyl rubber. Look for gloves that cover the hand and forearm.
- Eye protection. Safety glasses or goggles are important to prevent a splash, mist, particle or prill from landing in the eye. There’s a wide array of choices available that are comfortable, won’t fog up and stylish.
- Sun protection. Though not likely listed on product labels, protect yourself from the damaging effects of the sun. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen when working outdoors.
Cleaning and maintenance
It’s important to remove PPE as soon as possible after completing a task.
- To reduce the chance of contaminating yourself, wash your gloves with soap and water first and then remove other PPE while wearing your gloves.
- Wash any clothing that has been exposed to pesticides in detergent and hot water and separately from other laundry. Be sure to discard any clothing that might have been drenched or heavily contaminated.
- PPE should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance.
PPE only works if it’s worn. Selecting equipment that is comfortable to wear and easy to clean along with regular reminders of its vital importance can help ensure a safe workplace. To learn more, visit OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment topics page.