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Getting pesticide storage right

Pesticide is a broad term used to cover a range of products used to control pests and includes insect killers, fungicides, weed killers, slug pellets, plant growth regulators and rat and mouse poisons.

Pesticides serve to protect crops while they are growing, prevent contamination and loss whilst in storage and to safeguard against fungal attack.

However, as pesticides are used to kill unwanted pests, weeds and moulds, they can also harm people, wildlife and the environment.

Yet, it is still the case that many farmers and other dutyholders do not have proper plans in place for their safe storage.

Pesticides are used widely – in agriculture, horticulture and home and garden and also for Public Hygiene purposes.
The use of pesticides is strictly regulated in the UK because of the potential harm from the chemicals.

Anyone involved with pesticides, whether they are farmers, professional growers or gardeners, must ensure they are used safely and effectively – and a key element of this control is correct storage.

Case study

Last month, a pest controller was fined £1,000 for storing pesticides in an unlocked garden shed.

It prompted Natural England and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to issue a new alert about storing pesticides safely.

The bodies have warned that people who use pesticides risk being prosecuted if they fail to follow legal requirements for pesticide safe storage.

A court heard how police officers found nine containers of aluminium phosphide when they searched the pest controller's home earlier this year.

The pesticides had been stored in an unlocked shed.

Eight of the containers held a pesticide no longer authorised for storage and use in the UK. In some cases the containers had been opened and resealed after use - a practice which is prohibited, and could have led to the release of a dangerous gas if they had come into contact with water.

'Properly trained'

Commenting on the case, Natural England's wildlife management senior specialist Dr Ed Blane said: "This case underlines the importance of correctly storing fumigant pesticides and the need to dispose of products which have lost their approval.

"People have died as a result of unsafe storage and use of fumigant products. Anyone who uses or stores these products must be properly trained. There is no excuse for storing such toxic pesticides in the manner found in this case. Products which are no longer approved should be correctly disposed of."

Elaine Close, from the Chemicals Regulation Directorate at the HSE, added: "Pesticides are needed to control pests and weeds, but they can also be highly dangerous to people and the environment if used or stored incorrectly. That is why there are strict controls in place over their sale, storage and use."

Action points

Assess your current storage space – do you need to make any changes? Consider the need for special pesticide cabinets.

Ensure storage units are locked, pesticide containers are clearly marked and there are appropriate warning signs and information provided.

Store pesticides away from areas that present a fire risk and from domestic premises.

Further reading

HSE pesticide guidanceADNFCR-2134-ID-801359832-ADNFCR