SWA releases guidelines for exposure to organophosphate pesticides

Monday, 31 January, 2022

SWA releases guidelines for exposure to organophosphate pesticides

Safe Work Australia has released a new guide to help monitor the health of workers exposed to organophosphate pesticides (OPs).

Workers routinely exposed to insecticides in the agriculture and horticulture industry include those involved in activities where mixing, loading and direct handling of OPs occur. Exposure can happen when workers are undertaking animal health treatments like cattle and sheep dipping, or when seasonal field workers come into contact with pesticide residues. When workers are exposed, suspected of being exposed or concerned about exposure to OPs, the PCBU has a duty to arrange a health monitoring appointment with a registered medical practitioner. For example, an appointment should be arranged following spills or loss of containment of OPs resulting in excessive exposure to workers or when workers develop symptoms of OP exposure.

The new guide is aimed at registered medical practitioners (MPs) with experience in health monitoring after they have been engaged by the PCBU. It provides practical guidance to MPs about requirements under work health and safety laws for health monitoring. Health monitoring for organophosphate pesticides may be required before the person starts work so that changes to their health can be detected. The guide highlights that initial discussions about a health monitoring program should include possible health effects from exposure to OPs; how to recognise and report symptoms; and what is involved in the health monitoring program — for example, the frequency of testing and the tests that may be needed.

The guide states that a physical examination should be carried out only if work and medical history indicates that this is necessary — for example, by the presence of relevant symptoms. The guide also clarifies that OPs are respiratory irritants and that it is therefore important to investigate respiratory symptoms.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Halfpoint

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