Don’t take any risks when spraying is the warning from the National Association of Agricultural Contractors’ Jill Hewitt.

“Spraying is a highly visible, sensitive operation and a contractor cannot afford to make mistakes.

People may well be looking out for you and could have a camera,” she warns.

The industry is already highly regulated, but provided sprayer operators comply with existing regulations and appropriate risk assessments, the risk of public pesticide exposure can be minimised, she says.

If operators feel there is risk of overspray or drift they should postpone spraying until conditions are suitable, she says.

She highlights some important areas of best practice:

Follow DEFRA’s Green Code for the safe use of pesticides on farms. The guide will be updated in 2006 and can be downloaded from www.pesticides.gov.uk

Complete the appropriate certificate of competence eg National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC), BASIS qualification

Carry out a visual risk assessment for every spraying job when you arrive at a new field.

Consider weather, proximity to houses, schools etc and make sure there is no risk to anybody

Risk and COSHH assessments should be carried out for all spraying activities

Keep comprehensive records

“Record keeping in particular is going to become a statutory requirement in the future and will certainly help to show how professional we already are,” she notes.

Below are some key points from the Green Code on minimising spray drift:

Check the weather forecast and wind speed in the field – the safest conditions are when there is a steady Force 2 slight breeze blowing away from sensitive areas

Fluffy cumulus clouds indicate warm turbulent air which may carry spray vapour large distances in an unpredictable manner

Wind speed at boom height will be roughly half the wind speed information given by the Met Office

Use the coarsest appropriate spray quality

Keep the spray boom as low as possible – check nozzle angle accordingly

Reduce operating pressure and forward speed while maintaining recommended dose, volume and spray quality

Consider not treating all or part of the boom width closest to the boundary.
paul.spackman@rbi.co.uk