Take stock of chemical use, urges new campaign

Tuesday, 24 March, 2015

Handling powerful chemicals can be a risky business, which is why WorkCover NSW has launched a new campaign encouraging agricultural and horticultural workers to safely manage or prevent their exposure to potentially harmful substances.

The Rural Chemical Awareness Campaign released a video safety alert and has people on the ground conducting advisory site visits and workshops across regional NSW.

The director of WorkCover’s Specialist Services Group, Tony Robinson, said that while many businesses were already managing workplace chemicals effectively and safely, the use of pesticides is becoming more prevalent in rural areas.

“Many pesticides used to protect plants, animals and crops contain hazardous chemicals, which can have short- and long-term health effects if not managed safely,” Robinson said.

“Unfortunately, it’s all too easy when you are in a demanding work environment to let safe working methods slide and become complacent. All it takes is just one chemicals-related incident to affect a family, business or entire community, because in addition to the injured person, the full effects of an exposure may not emerge for many years.”

Robinson said the campaign is an opportunity to hit the pause button and take stock of existing safety measures, while utilising free WorkCover assistance and expertise that may result in new business efficiencies.

The campaign’s current focus is on three chemicals: chlordimeform, previously used in the cotton industry and now banned; benzene, present in petrol and diesel-powered machinery exhaust emissions; and organophosphates, used for weed and pest control.

“No matter what chemical you are working with or near, the same simple safety messages apply to their use,” Robinson said.

“I strongly urge business owners, managers and workers to stop, take stock and be safe when handling or working near chemicals.”

Free fact sheets about each pesticide, along with safety tips and the video safety alert, are now available on the WorkCover NSW website.

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