Pest News   |   December 12, 2019

Applicator Safety Is A Good Thing

By: Dr. Bob Davis, BCE, Technical Specialist, BASF, SPD Pest Control: South Central United States.

Pest Management Professionals (PMP’s) enjoy satisfying and rewarding careers. However, there are hazards associated with these positions. They include the operation of motor vehicles, ladders, and power tools. Other hazards include working in crawl spaces, attics and on rooftops. Lastly, the use of pesticides in our Integrated Pest Management programs also represents a degree of hazard. Keeping these hazards at an acceptable low level should be a priority for all of us. Only by preparation, training and maintenance can it be ensured that PMP’s will perform their tasks safely. 

Job safety is a concern for all of us and technicians are exposed to many hazards during the course of a workday. By far, the greatest hazard a tech is exposed to is while driving the service vehicle.  These vehicles can be quite large and have restricted vision due to camper shells, enlarged cabs, or equipment in the back. Practicing defensive driving and properly maintaining the vehicle (lights, brakes, mirrors, tires, etc.) are the keys to reducing this common hazard. Pre-scheduled inspections and prompt follow-ups are also sound ideas.

Another source of concern for applicators is the possible hazard from pesticide use. Remember that hazard is defined as a relationship between toxicity and exposure. Therefore, if we can reduce exposure and select products that have a low toxicity rating then we are ahead of the ballgame. The best place to start when addressing both toxicity and exposure is the pesticide label. The first thing to note is the “Signal Word”. The signal word will be written in enlarged letters on the front of the label and it will either be “Caution”, “Warning”, or “Danger”. “Danger” will also have a “skull & crossbones” and the word “POISON” associated with it. Fortunately, in our industry today there are not a lot of products with “Danger” being used (notable exceptions are the fumigants). If possible, try to select products that provide the lowest toxicity (Caution < Warning < Danger) and provide the needed results. Also, note that products with “no signal word” are Category 4 “Caution” products. The printing of “Caution” on the label is optional by the manufacturers for Category 4. 

Pesticide exposure can occur in three different ways, including dermal (skin exposure, including eyes), inhalation (lungs), and ingestion (oral). Limiting these exposures is the key. Normally, the greatest potential of exposure for pesticide applicators is dermal. This is because liquid spray droplets have a potential to drift back on to the skin during application.  However, when applying dusts and other dry materials inhalation is certainly a major concern. Oral exposure is a concern for technicians that have not washed before eating, or before using other orally ingested products. 

The best way to limit exposure is to wear the proper Personal Protective Equipment(PPE). Please remember that PPE starts with your daily work clothes or uniform. All applicators should wear proper shoes (boots, leather shoes, etc., not canvas or tennis shoes), socks, long pants, and shirt. This list is a minimum of what should be worn for application. Please review the specific pesticide labels for recommended and/or required forms of PPE. Some labels will have a section entitled Personal Protective Equipment. Other forms of PPE that may be listed include chemical resistant or waterproof gloves, protective eyewear (goggles, face shields, or glasses with temple and side protection) approved respirator, rubber boots, waterproof apron, etc. Termiticide labels list long-sleeved shirts and water-proof/chemical resistant gloves required while mixing, loading and applying (along with shoes, socks & long pants). Also, protective eyewear is required when rodding or sub-slab injecting termiticide. Please take the time to review the product labels and ensure that you and/or your applicators have the equipment necessary to provide the service properly and with low hazard. Limiting exposure is the key. If a pesticide can be applied with “minimal” to “no exposure” then applicator hazard is under control.

Good Luck and Let’s Be Careful Out There!

Dr. Bob Davis, Technical Services Representative, BASF Professional & Specialty Solutions.  Dr. Davis is based out of Pflugerville, TX, He can be reached at 512 657-5913 or at