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Storage & Handling Practices for Pesticide & Fertilizer

Best Practices for Pesticide and Fertilizer Storage and Handling

When used properly, good fertilizers and pesticides are the best things that can happen to your turf. But these same agricultural products can pose serious health risks to humans and animals. Both contain toxic chemicals that are especially dangerous in their concentrated form. Exposure to them his been linked to a number of short- and long-term conditions, including:

  • Skin irritation
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Asthma
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Cancer

As a result, both state and federal agencies have adopted standards for commercial storage and handling of these products — and even more stringent ones are in place in some local municipalities. Even if you are an individual homeowner and certain regulations don’t apply to you, you should still take care to make sure that family, friends and pets don’t fall victim to “plant food poisoning.” Ideal fertilizer and pesticide management practices should:

  1. Minimize the amounts of chemicals that you have stored and that are handled regularly.
  2. Reduce the amount of waste and partially used chemicals on hand.
  3. Keep good records of all your agricultural chemical use and inventory.
  4. Prepare everyone to respond to emergencies.

Storing Fertilizer & Pesticides

When you’re not using your fertilizer or pesticides, you can’t just throw them on a garage shelf and forget about them. Here are some things you should also do when storing dangerous chemicals:

  • Don’t store chemicals in basements or areas where flooding might occur.
  • Separate fertilizers from other chemicals and keep them in a dry area.
  • Keep Material Safety Data Sheets for all pesticides and display them in a notable location.
  • Use secondary containment for concentrates and stock solutions.
  • Keep the date of purchase on all containers.
  • Place large bags, boxes or drums on pallets to keep them off the floor.
  • Place bulk tanks in a containment area that can confine 25 percent more than the largest tank.
  • For smaller containers, use shelves that have a lip so it’s harder for them to slide off.
  • Use steel or plastic shelving (wood may absorb spills).
  • Store dry products above liquid products.
  • Label the containment area as a fertilizer or pesticide storage area and lock the doors when it’s not in use.
  • Install a smoke and heat detection system in the area for fire prevention.
  • Clean and inspect your storage area at least once a month and after any spills or leaks.

How to Handle Agricultural Chemicals

Failing to respect the products you handle is an easy way to end up with a mouthful of fertilizer or get insecticide all over your arms. Use this checklist when preparing, using or packing up your plant food:

  • Always use personal protective equipment when handling chemicals. These include:
    • Respirators
    • Chemical-resistant (CR) gloves, footwear and headgear
    • Protective eyewear
    • Long-sleeve coveralls and aprons
  • All protective equipment, along with a first-aid kit, should be kept right outside the storage area.
  • Avoid mixing and loading fertilizers and pesticides or releasing cleaning waste anywhere that spills and overflows as this could leak into local water systems or other environmental sites. A 100-foot minimum distance is recommended.
  • Use closed system devices on any and all spray equipment for better mixing.
  • Clean your loading system’s pad and sump after each use.
  • Keep absorbent material, a garbage can and a shovel on hand for spill containment and clean-up. Absorbent materials can include clay, pet litter, vermiculite and activated charcoal.
  • All liquid pesticide containers must be triple-rinsed to be considered non-hazardous. Spray the rinse material on a registered site using a spray tank.
  • Use mechanical ventilation when mixing or otherwise handling chemicals in any enclosed environment.

Creating an Emergency Response Plan

If there is a fertilizer and pesticide discharge in spite of your best efforts, and someone does ingest or have excessive contact, you will need a good emergency response plan in place to limit the effects. Update this plan on a regular basis and keep it in your storage location where it can easily be found. Anyone who lives or works there should also be trained in all response procedures. A good emergency plan for agricultural chemicals should include:

  1. Identities and phone numbers for any people or agencies who should be contacted. This can include the local poison control center, the nearest hospital, the Department of Agriculture and the person(s) responsible for storing the chemicals.
  2. Any and all procedures and equipment that you know should be used for controlling the effects of the chemicals and recovering from them.
  3. A copy of the storage container label and contents for everything that you have stored.
  4. The identity and location of every fertilizer or pesticide storage container.

Safe Practices for Turf Care

By using the utmost precaution and safest methods for the storage and handling of fertilizers and pesticides, you will minimize the danger they present to others. You will also be prepared to respond quickly and effectively in case of accidental spills, leaks or ingestion. Call or email the experts at Fit Turf if you need more tips and best practices for agricultural chemical storage.

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