Working with pesticides - Overview

This publication is for: 
Employee / workerEmployer

Pesticides are often classified as hazardous substances and can harm workers, other people or the environment if not used correctly. Pesticides are regulated by several agencies; refer to the Further Information section for more details. 

Do you need to use pesticides? 

  • Can the pest be managed through hygiene, pest-proofing or barriers or using resistant species?

Before you apply pesticides

  • Choose less hazardous pesticides where practical. 
  • Spray operators should have received training in chemical hazards, controls (including personal protective equipment/PPE) and safe use of pesticides. Training providers with a specific focus on pesticides are available. 
  • Health surveillance should be provided for workers if there is a health risk from organophosphates. 
  • Read the label and material safety data sheet (MSDS)assess the risks, and work out what equipment (including PPE) you need. 
  • Check the weather – follow any weather warnings on the label.
  • Check your equipment – use dust and charcoal air filters for tractor cabs if spraying hazardous pesticides. Choose nozzles to suit the weather conditions, the chemical and the label requirements. 
  • Calibrate spray equipment before use. 
  • Have soap and water available for washing hands.
  • Make sure others know your plans and that there is a communication plan if you will be working alone.     

Preparing and mixing chemicals

  • Do not eat, drink or smoke when handling chemicals.
  • Use the PPE listed on the label.
  • Open containers slowly in case pressure has built up. 
  • Mix chemicals in the correct order and use the recommended dilution rate.
  • Wash gloves with soap and water before removing them.
  • Wash hands after handling chemicals, especially before eating, drinking, smoking or going to the toilet.

Applying pesticides

  • Ensure the spray area is clear of people and animals before spraying. If close to sensitive land uses, inform neighbours before spraying.  
  • Keep vehicle cabs clean – remove contaminated PPE before entering and keep windows and doors closed and air conditioning on 'recycle' during spraying. 
  • If cleaning blocked nozzles, wear gloves and safety glasses and use a small brush or toothbrush – never blow clear with your mouth.
  • Check the label for information on when the area can be re-entered by unprotected people.

Cleaning up

  • Wear PPE when cleaning up.
  • Empty and rinse tanks, flush all couplers and filling devices with water, clean spray lines and nozzles, wash down sprayer and decontaminate if required. 
  • Triple rinse empty pesticide containers and return to the store/supplier where possible, otherwise use an environmentally responsible waste disposal service
  • Wash PPE in hot soapy water. Wash gloves last. Check reusable PPE for damage. 
  • Wash hands, arms and face with soap and water, or shower. 
  • Change clothes and hat. 

Record keeping

Keep records of:  

Further information

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). The APVMA website contains information (including MSDS and labels) on registered pesticides, and a process for reporting problems with pesticides.   

Department of Health, A guide to the use of pesticides in Western Australia. 2010

  • This Guide sets out the legislative requirements for the safe and effective use of pesticides in WA, and policies and practical guidance on how to comply with the legislation. It provides information on all current Western Australian (WA) legislation that impacts on the control of use of pesticides. The Guide was developed by the Department of Health  in cooperation with the Departments of  Agriculture and Food, Environment and Conservation, Commerce (WorkSafe Division), Mines and Petroleum (Dangerous Goods Safety Branch), Water, and The ChemCentre.

Department of Health. Guidelines for the safe use of pesticides in non-agricultural workplaces. 2007. 

  • These guidelines were developed for the pest management and related industries, and were written by the Pest Management Industry and Government Sector Advisory Group.

Department of Health. Quick contacts for the use of pesticides in WA. 2011. 

  • This document contains guidance on which government department to contact for different pesticide related issues.

Department of Health, Pesticide Use web page. 

  • This page contains information on understanding pesticide labels, managing pesticides in local government programs, signage for verge spraying and public places, and guidelines on separating agricultural and residential land use.

Australian Standard AS 2476 General fumigation procedures. Available from Standards Australia
Australian Standard AS 2507 The storage and handling of agricultural and veterinary chemicals. Available from Standards Australia

Fact sheet
Last updated 15 Nov 2021

Last modified: