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Agriculture safety includes Personal Protective Equipment
Dr. Victor Martin

The Drought Monitor report is easy this week. No real change except for a slight intensification in extreme southwest Kansas. The six to ten day outlook (April 21-25) has above normal precipitation and temperatures for the state. Corn producers want those warmer temperatures for corn planting. The warmer temperatures starter this weekend will also help wheat producers evaluate potential freeze damage from the extremely cold temperatures last weekend. Was there any significant damage to the wheat crop? Likely in spots where the primary tillers and some of the secondaries had jointed. The fields that were lagging behind in development should have fared better. Looking out eight to 14 days (April 23 to 29) also indicates above normal precipitation and temperatures. Does this means the frost danger is over? Hopefully, but we have snow in recent years the first of May. The 30-day outlook (May) is for of equal chances of below or above normal temperatures and above normal precipitation with the 90 day (May through August) outlook predicting equal chances of above or below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation.  

Last week we briefly examined food safety protocols in food production. This week, let’s take a brief look at PPE, Personal Protective Equipment, in agriculture. Before the pandemic, many industries and occupations already had PPE requirements, including medical professionals. In fact you may have read or heard how various industries were using the N95 masks and donated them to the cause. Different aspects of agriculture have different requirements.

As an example, let’s look at what a pesticide applicator should consider. But before we do, it’s important to note what is needed depends on the herbicide. So you are required to read the label for specifics. All labels are required to have a prominently displayed “signal” word. There are three: Caution, Warning, and Danger, here in increasing order of care to be taken. If the label has no specific requirements the applicator uses the signal word. And the Danger signal word is accompanied by a skull and crossbones.

With limited space, let’s mostly focus on the minimum required.

• Long sleeve shirt and pants/coveralls or Tyvek type suit. Clean and free of holes with the shirt tucked in. Materials should not be synthetic but natural or a blend. Fabric should be tightly woven. An apron if indicated made of appropriate material. Pants should be outside boots and sleeves outside gloves.

• Shoes and boots as indicated by the application. Unlined neoprene boots are preferable with socks. When handling certain materials, appropriate gloves are required. Liquid-proof, unlined neoprene gloves long enough to cover the wrists at a minimum. No powder in the gloves.  

• A wide brimmed hat is preferable with no sweatband or one that can be removed.

• Depending on what you are doing you may need safety goggles or a face shield. This is primarily.

• Possible use of masks and respirator vary greatly depending on the pesticide.

Finally, single use suits and gloves are often preferred as they don’t need laundered and can be disposed of. This reduces the chance of  contaminated clothing exposing the applicator or others, including family members from exposure to pesticides.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.