Tips for application equipment maintenance and safety
Understanding proper equipment maintenance and safety is vital to preventing unwanted chemical spills, over-application or pesticide drift. Applicators need to take time to examine their equipment regularly for leaks, worn hoses and similar maintenance issues. They also need to exercise care when using the equipment since the equipment itself may pose dangers.
Whether working with or maintaining equipment used to apply pesticides, follow the same safety precautions as you would when mixing, loading or applying a pesticide. Remember that pesticide equipment is contaminated with pesticide residues and presents a risk to the user or mechanic, even when it is not being used to make an application. Be prepared for accidental exposure to substances which may be in hoses, drain lines or pumps.
- Consult the pesticide labels to determine what personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn. When you are unsure of what pesticides are present, select PPE which provides the greatest protection. Anyone working on equipment should provide themselves with the same protection as the applicator or handler.
- Pesticides and Personal Protective Equipment: Selection Care and Use (Purdue Pesticide Programs)
- What you need to know about…Protecting Yourself When Using Pesticides: Why wear protective clothing (Penn State)
- Before working on application equipment, remove any remaining pesticide from the holding tank. Drain all pipes and hoses of sprayers into a suitable container for future use (do not use a food container). This will reduce the chance of pesticides leaking, spilling or splashing onto you while working on the equipment.
- Have an emergency eyewash kit nearby as well as decontamination supplies such as soap, a clean towel, a clean change of clothes and an adequate supply of clean water which can be used for washing.
- Train other family members or employees as well as yourself about emergency first aid for pesticide exposure and when to contact emergency responders if exposure occurs.
- Wash hands before eating, drinking, smoking, touching eyes or using the toilet. Don’t spread pesticides. Remove pesticide-contaminated clothes right away. Wash them separately from other clothing.
- Laundering Pesticide Contaminated Clothing (University of Missouri Extension)
- Pesticide Contaminated Clothing Needs Washing Care (Ohio State University Extension)
General Equipment Maintenance
When performing routine maintenance, cleaning or repairs, you should consult the equipment’s user manual (if provided) or contact the manufacturer or vendor for information specific to your equipment.
- Create a repair kit which contains basic tools necessary for small field repairs as well as replacement parts. These parts might include spare nozzles, pipe clamps, pressure gauges, anti-drip diaphragms, pump diaphragms and valves. For sprayers powered by small gas engines, keep spare pull string available. To determine which tools should be in the kit for routine repairs and maintenance, examine the sprayer and attachments. For small hand sprayers or backpack sprayers, an adjustable wrench (crescent), pliers, allen head wrench set, flat head screwdriver and Phillips head screwdriver may be sufficient. A multi-tool kit containing these tools may be the best option for keeping them together. If working away from your home, shop or farm, keep the kit with the equipment.
- Check nozzles for obstructions and remove any soil, dirt or debris. Use a soft-bristled brush when cleaning nozzles. Replace worn nozzles.
- Clean the sprayer regularly.
- Cleaning Your Sprayer (Cornell University)
- Maintenance, Cleaning and Storage of Ground Sprayers This publication from Montana State University discusses end-of-season maintenance, cleaning and storage practices for ground sprayers.
- Sprayer Clean-out Guidelines (Montana State University Extension)
- Cleaning Pesticide Application Equipment (University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension)