Pest control operators (PCOs) need to be aware of the correct procedures for handling spills and disposing of unwanted chemicals.
Pesticide labels and safety data sheets
PCOs must be prepared for unplanned events on every pest control job. You can actively protect yourself, those around you and your clients by reading, understanding and following the directions on the label and Safety data sheets (SDSs).
The SDSs provides information about what to use to clean up spills, as well as possible adverse health effects when the chemical being used is no longer contained. You should carry the SDS for every chemical you transport or use. If you do not have an SDS, then check with the chemical manufacturer or importer or check on the SDS website.
Read the label first, and be prepared!
To help prevent spills or reduce the severity of a spill should it occur, keep in mind the following:
- mix products on a level surface and hold the container steady
- do not mix or store pesticides near drains or stormwater outlets
- carry absorbent materials and have them ready in case of an accident
- secure containers in your vehicle
- use warning signs when mixing and treating
- keep people, animals, hoses and vehicles away from the containers and treatment area
- keep lids on containers when not in use
- store containers in an organised and orderly manner
- use funnels and accurate measuring jugs with a pouring lip
- have an emergency response plan
- use the lowest toxicity pesticide possible.
Follow these key steps when there is a spill.
Remember, if in doubt – GET OUT.
- Assess the potential dangers. The first priority is to protect your health and safety, and the health and safety of other people.
- If in doubt or the spill is large, contact the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) or Country Fire Authority (CFA) on 000, and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria.
- Always wear the correct personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Follow emergency directions on the label and SDS.
- Ensure the area is ventilated and stay upwind of the spill.
- Barricade and sign the area to prevent unauthorised access.
- Control the source of the spill.
- If the spill has occurred due to a leaking container, decant the remaining liquid into another container, or locate the source of the leak and position the container so that it is not sitting on the leaking side.
- Contain the spill.
- Use sand or absorbent material to barricade the spill and prevent spreading.
- Block any drains in the vicinity.
Develop and practice spill procedures within your business so that everyone always knows what to do. Remember:
- Prompt clean-up action will reduce the likelihood of the hazardous material soaking into the ground or spreading.
- When using absorbent materials, such as hydrated lime or kitty litter, leave the material on the site of the spill for at least one hour.
- Make sure that the spill location is supervised at all times during clean up.
- If the SDS recommends the use of bleach to neutralise the material, use only enough to cover the area that was covered by the spill. Absorb the bleach with absorbent materials and dispose of appropriately.
- Do not wash hazardous materials away with water.
- Send any contaminated materials to a facility licensed by the EPA to accept prescribed industrial waste.
- After you clean up the spill, wash your hands and any exposed areas of your skin with soap and water. Shower if necessary.
- If you get any diluted pesticide on your clothing, you can wash it separately from other family laundry with a heavy-duty detergent. If you spill concentrated product on your clothing you may need to dispose of it along with clean-up materials.
- If you or someone else is directly exposed to a pesticide, wash the pesticide off the skin with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Get medical attention as soon as possible, if required.
See ‘Frequently asked questions’ for further information.
Keep emergency equipment to deal with spills in your vehicle or on site. Make sure the equipment is readily available in case you need it. Your spill kit should include a spare pair of gloves, and materials to contain liquids and prevent spills, such as commercial absorbent materials (hydrated lime or limil, kitty litter or dry sand). Clearly label your spill kit and store it in a place where you can access it easily.
If a spill occurs that threatens the environment in any way, you must contact the EPA or local council immediately.
Emergency telephone numbers must always be in a prominent place so that anyone can find them should a spill or other emergency occur.
The fire brigade and the Environment Protection Authority
Remember the four Cs:
Control the flow
Contain the spill
Clean up promptly.
Contact emergency fires services for large spills
If in doubt, or the spill is large, contact the MFB or CFA (on 000) and provide as much information as possible to gain assistance and advice.
The information that you (or a designated messenger) should provide includes:
- the location of spill
- the quantity of spill
- the type of accident
- the chemical involved
- the flammability and toxicity of the chemical
- other hazards, such as ignition sources and casualties.
Contact the EPA Pollution Watch Line on 1300 372 842 to report the spill.
If any person exposed to a hazardous substance following an incident requires medical attention within 48 hours of exposure, the employer must notify WorkSafe Victoria on 1800 136 089.
Disposal of unwanted chemicals
Always follow label instructions for chemical disposal and dispose of leftover hazardous chemicals cautiously. A licensed waste treatment company should dispose of any unwanted liquid chemicals.
Check with the EPA to find a local company licensed to treat and dispose of waste chemicals
Your chemical supplier might be able to provide advice about local chemical disposal services.
Chemical disposal do’s and don’ts
- Do reduce the risk of a severe spill by using products with the lowest toxicity possible.
- Do become familiar with the chemical you are using. Read and understand the SDS health and environmental precautions. Follow label instructions carefully and accurately.
- Do reduce volumes of waste generated and materials discarded.
- Don’t ever assume that any chemical is safe.
- Don’t pour waste down the drain.
- Don’t use empty pesticide containers for any other purpose. Crush or puncture the container so it cannot be reused.
- Don’t bury or burn unwanted chemicals or containers – these are not environmentally acceptable methods of disposal. Burning may release toxic fumes.
- Don’t exceed label application rates or respray just to dispose of the leftover product.
- Don’t empty dregs from the nozzle, spread unused pesticide concentrate on land, or put pesticides into sewers and drains.
- Don’t store excess mixture in spraying equipment for an extended period. Spray excess onto another area where its effect may be beneficial. If no such area can be found, decant and store or dispose of the residual material. Don’t empty out carelessly.
- Do triple or pressure rinse containers before disposal to landfill. You may also be able to recycle correctly cleaned containers. Check your local recycling service.
- Do contact the manufacturer or your supplier to discuss return of unopened pesticide containers to them.
- Do store leftover pesticide in a safe place for a short time until a licensed waste treatment company makes collection.
- Do clean sprayers or empty containers as far from a watercourse, ditch or well as required to eliminate the possibility of pesticides being washed back into the surface water or groundwater.
Pest animal carcasses and other animal waste
Burying poisoned animals ensures that they will not become a secondary poisoning hazard to pets and wildlife. Do not take the skins, and do not use the meat of poisoned animals for human or animal food.
The appropriate place to bury poisoned animals is a landfill approved by the EPA. Talk to the landfill operator before you take the contaminated carcass to the landfill to ensure that they accept poisoned animals.
You should also talk to the landfill operator to ensure that poisoned animals are covered as soon as possible to minimise odour emissions.