Safer chemicals use

A new paddock guide to the safe handling of farm chemicals and a household guide designed to reduce family exposure have been produced to help grain growers and their families prevent adverse effects of chemical spills

A photo of a range of agricultural chemicals

Australian agricultural chemicals are safe but manufacturers’ directions must be followed.

 PHOTO: Emma Leonard

Up-to-date laundry and paddock guides developed as part of a groundbreaking Australian project have been produced to show grain growers and their families how to better handle chemicals and contaminated clothing.

Developed in Western Australia by the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA), the guides are outcomes of the SEPWA Chemicals Project.

The SEPWA Paddock Guide, Your guide to the safe handling of farm chemicals, provides a comprehensive list of procedures to follow prior to, during and after spraying

It encourages growers to: wear personal protective equipment when mixing and applying chemicals; use low-toxicity pesticides; read product labels; and practise safe work habits to minimise or eliminate hazards.

The Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (ACAHS) at the University of Sydney also recommends adoption of integrated pest management practices, which reduce reliance on pesticides (especially broad-spectrum pesticides), limiting opportunities for resistance and promoting beneficial species.

“Growers should check their rigs [spray equipment] thoroughly to ensure there is no damage and replace any broken components and worn or leaking hoses,” says ACAHS program leader John Temperley.

“Chemicals should be stored safely in original containers and empty containers should be disposed of through the national drumMUSTER collection and recycling program.”

In Australia, growers must complete an approved chemical user training course before operating spray rigs and are required to keep up-to-date records of pesticide use under Australian law.

The SEPWA House Guide provides households with information about how to launder contaminated clothing and basic first aid procedures for farm chemical poisoning.

Niki Curtis says throwing contaminated clothing into the washing machine with other clothing can transfer residue to garments, warning that ordinary laundry procedures “won’t rid clothes of highly toxic and concentrated chemical residues”.

“During spraying operations, clothing and boots pick up chemical residue, which can be spread to the farm ute and inside the family home, putting family members, including young children, at risk of contact,” Ms Curtis says.

“Clothing worn at time of spraying should be kept separate from other laundry, handled with chemical-resistant gloves and washed after each day’s use to maximise removal of chemicals.

“Garments should be pre-rinsed or pre-soaked and should be washed, uncrowded, in hot water at the highest water level for the longest wash cycle using heavy-duty detergents.”

The guides encourage farming families to be aware of early signs of ill health during or immediately after handling chemicals and to seek urgent medical attention if symptoms appear.

“SEPWA is keen to promote the safe use of chemicals for the obvious health and safety reasons, and also because chemicals are an important part of farming operations,” Ms Curtis says. “To maintain their use growers must abide by the manufacturers’ and APVMA’s instructions for safe handling.”

Image of the SEPWA Paddock guide, Your guide to the safe handling of farm chemicals

Your guide to the safe handling of farm chemicals.
Click the image above to visit the SEPWA website to download a copy of the guide.

The Paddock Guide and House Guide can be downloaded from the SEPWA website ( or hard copies can be obtained from:
SEPWA executive officer
Niki Curtis,
08 9083 1125,
0447 908 311.

More information:


Niki Curtis,
08 9083 1125,;


John Temperley,
02 6752 8210,;


ChemCert Australia,;




Syngenta, (Agricast is a subscription service);

Nufarm, (subscription service);

Poisons Information Centre,
131 126

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GRDC Project Code NPB00013

Region South, West, North