Plan for Emergencies

In addition to keeping an up-to-date inventory of stored pesticides, it is a good idea to have a plan for handling spills, fires, explosions, or other emergencies. Make sure workers are trained on how to keep the storage area safe and secure, and how to respond to spills or other accidents. Post emergency telephone numbers nearby, and make sure workers know where these numbers are.

Stock each storage site with an immediate supply of clean water and soap in case of pesticide contact with skin. If running water is not practical, use a large sealable container with clean water. Change the water at least once a week so that it is safe to use on skin and eyes, and clean the container periodically. Keep an eye-wash dispenser immediately available for emergencies.

Responding to spills

Keep emergency supplies and personal protective equipment nearby, but not in the storage building or room. You will need protective equipment to enter a storage area if a spill or other accident has occurred. Until you know the extent and type of spill or accident, take all precautions, using a respirator, gloves, eye protection, boots, and a protective suit to enter the storage area. Keep spill clean-up materials nearby. A spill kit should include absorptive materials, such as non-chlorinated cat litter, vermiculite, or activated charcoal, a shovel, and a drum with a lid for storing contaminated material. Don’t allow workers to take items from the kit for other purposes. A clean, empty pesticide container may be used to capture any pesticide that has not leaked from a broken container. Make sure this is labeled appropriately before returning it to storage. Refer to the MSDS for the types of materials that are needed to deactivate spills. Common decontamination materials include hydrated lime, lye, ammonia, bleach, or detergent. Do not mix ammonia with bleach. Call CHEMTREC (Chemical Transportation Emergency Center, 1-800-424-9300) or the chemical manufacturer for information on responding to large spills.

Federal and state laws require reporting of spills involving pesticides that are regulated as Hazardous Substances or as Extremely Hazardous Substances. Not all pesticides meet these criteria. Pesticides that are on these lists have reporting requirements based on the amount of active ingredient spilled, referred to as the Reportable Quantity (RQ). When in doubt, contact the appropriate agency (see Laws and Regulations).

Documents to keep on file

Keep copies of your storage location map, storage unit floor plan, and current or seasonal inventory in a secure place away from the storage unit. Keep copies of labels and MSDSs for every chemical in storage.

Work with emergency responders

Notify local fire departments or other first responders about the location and contents of your pesticide storage facility. You may be required to notify your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) about the contents of your storage building.

Large-scale commercial storage or restricted use pesticide storage facilities should have written contingency plans describing the procedures for managing fires involving pesticides. The document entitled Fire and Spill Emergency Pre-Plan for Handling Agricultural Chemicals available from The NC Pesticide Safety Education website provides grids for drawing the property site and drainage routes, list of emergency contacts, fire fighting tactics and location of available resources. Update the plan yearly, and review it with your local Fire Department.

Fire extinguishers: Keep a fire extinguisher that is approved for chemical fires nearby, or near each exit within the storage building. Read the pesticide labels to determine what type of fire extinguisher(s) you need. ABC classified extinguishers are appropriate for most pesticides. Fire extinguishers need to be inspected and maintained on a regular basis to ensure that they are in good operating condition. For information on the appropriate size, type, and inspection of fire extinguishers for your pesticide storage facility, read the following fact sheet: Use, Placement, Maintenance and Testing of Portable Fire Extinguishers. Lab Safety Supply, EZfacts document number 135.

Remember that it is sometimes safer to let a chemical fire burn itself out than to expose firefighters to pesticides or to contaminate large quantities of water. Let the fire fighter make this decision.

Compiled by Wayne Buhler, PhD.

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