An umbrella term, the word ‘agricultural chemicals’ encompasses a diverse range of substances that are available in many concentrations and forms including liquids, powders, granules, and pellets. Some aim to improve or control growing conditions and processes (soil desiccants and harvest aids), whereas others are designed to kill or minimize crop or livestock threats including animal pests, weeds, and insects. These are defined in the following broad groups, including some common examples of each:

Pesticides pyrethroids, sodium fluoroacetate, zinc phosphide and strychnine;

Herbicides glyphosate, paraquat and diquat;

Insecticides organophosphates and neonicotinoids;

Fungicides calcium polysulfide, captafol and captan and;

Fumigants methyl bromide

Exposure to these chemicals can occur in many ways. Obvious scenarios include treatment of animals, crops, plants, and grain stores in agricultural or livestock production settings, but other known risk environments include forestry, gardening, professional (or domestic) pest control, or exposure through the spraying of public parks, pavements, and playgrounds. Any process that employs fumigation for parasite management, such as cross-border biosecurity, also leaves workers open to exposure.

Why ‘no exposure’ is impossible – Protect yourself with PPE

As with many workplace safety hazards, complete elimination is an unachievable goal, so a program of harm minimization based on rigorous assessment must be implemented. When conducting a workplace hazard assessment, it’s important to consider scenarios where multiple substances are found, as the effect of an individual chemical can be enhanced or significantly changed when combined with another.Utilizing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is the best defence against workplace agricultural chemicals exposure hazards.

PPE options in these applications can include gloves, clothing, boots, cuffs, face shields, aprons and eye protection including goggles and glasses. Adequate chemical protection calls for a detailed understanding of the substances to which workers are exposed. Protective clothing and gloves are manufactured in a wide range of styles and materials which mean they are more-or less-suited to specific applications. For example, some material types will be susceptible to failure by degradation or to permeation of certain chemical types, par