Pesticides: code of practice for using plant protection products in Scotland

The code is aimed at all professional users of plant protection products (pesticides) in Scotland.

A: emergency procedures

Your emergency action plan should consider how to protect the environment when you are dealing with any exposure or spillage.

A1 Action plans

Anyone who uses pesticides professionally (that is, as part of their job) must be trained in emergency procedures and must have, and understand, their own action plans. These emergency action plans should be kept up to date to cover new equipment or new ways of working. Many product labels will have specific advice on what to do if you are contaminated or there is a spillage or fire. This information is always on the manufacturer's material safety data sheet (MSDS), which you can get when you buy the product.

A2 Personal contamination

You can be exposed to pesticides through your skin (usually the main route of exposure) and eyes, by breathing them in or by swallowing them. Your emergency action plan should consider how to protect the environment when you are dealing with any exposure or spillage.

If you, or people you are working with or nearby, feel unwell when you are using pesticides, or after you have used them, you should do the following:

  • stop work and, if necessary, call for medical help immediately
  • prevent further exposure. Use appropriate personal protective equipment when helping a contaminated person or handling contaminated surfaces
  • move the casualty away from the source of contamination and remove all their contaminated clothing
  • wash contaminated skin or hair thoroughly with plenty of clean water
  • if eyes are contaminated, immediately flush them with plenty of clean running water. Then cover the eye with a sterile eye pad or similar lint-free dressing
  • if someone has swallowed a pesticide, do not try to make them vomit (be sick) unless the product label recommends this
  • make the casualty rest and keep them warm
  • if the casualty is unconscious, check their breathing and pulse and put them in the recovery position. If there are no signs of breathing or a pulse, begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), if necessary, using a method of artificial respiration which will avoid the risk of you swallowing or breathing in the pesticide
  • give the doctor or hospital a copy of the product labels and material safety data sheets. If this is not possible, give them details of the active ingredients and the product names
  • make sure you or someone else reports the incident to your nearest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) office. The address and phone number will be in The Phone Book or you can phone the HSE 'info line' on 0845 3450055. For out-of-hours emergencies, phone the HSE on 0151 9229235

A3 Dealing with spillage

You can keep the negative effect a pesticide spillage has on the environment as low as possible by carrying an appropriate 'spill kit' and knowing how to use it. You must never hose down spilt pesticide or allow it to enter surface water, ditches, drains or soakaways. It is good practice to have a diagram of your drainage systems available for emergencies.

If you spill any pesticide as a concentrate, ready-to-use product or spray solution, no matter how small the spill is, you should do the following:

  • keep people and animals away from the affected area until the situation has been dealt with
  • avoid becoming contaminated yourself. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment
  • immediately prevent further spillage using, for example, an emergency folding pool
  • contain the spilt material. as a priority, keep the contamination away from surface water, ditches and drains
  • tell the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (phone 0800 807060) and warn others at risk if the spill:
    • contaminates any water
    • could contaminate water later, either directly or through a drainage system
    • contaminates a large amount of soil
  • you may need to tell neighbours or people using the water downstream of the spill
  • tell Scottish Water (phone 0845 6008855) if the spill enters a sewage system
  • for spilt liquids, put absorbent material, such as cat litter or dry sand, around the spill and use the same material to soak up the spillage. the material you use must be 'inert'. this means it must not cause any chemical reaction
  • sweep up any solids and material used to contain liquid spills. Sweep up as gently as possible without raising dust. Then sprinkle the area with inert absorbent material and sweep gently again
  • for leaking containers, do one of the following:
    • use the contents immediately
    • pour the contents of the damaged container into an empty container that originally held the same product. The container should be in good condition and with an undamaged label
    • put the leaking container into a suitable larger container clearly labelled with the product name and the hazard classification and risk and safety phrases shown on the product label
  • never put any pesticides into an empty food or drink container
  • dispose of all contaminated material safely and legally (for example, through a licensed waste-disposal contractor). This includes getting rid of any equipment which you used to clean up the spillage and which cannot be decontaminated safely

A4 Suspected animal poisoning

If you find a creature or animal which you suspect has been affected by being exposed to pesticides, or if you find spilt pesticide or unprotected baits, you should do the following (as appropriate):

  • get the animal away from the source of contamination, taking care not to be contaminated yourself. If necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment
  • take the animal to a vet or contact a vet immediately, keeping the animal sheltered and resting
  • if possible, give the vet the product labels. Otherwise, give the name of the products and their active ingredients
  • phone the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme ( WIIS) on 0800 321 600 for an incident involving any creature (except fish). This means not only wild mammals, birds and pets but also bees or other insects, worms and other creatures
  • for incidents involving fish, phone the Scottish Environment Protection Agency on 0800 807060
  • do not touch any dead animals, unprotected baits, pesticides or containers, and never try to unblock a badger sett or fox earth which may have been gassed
  • if it is safe to do so, cover any dead animals or pesticides until they can be disposed of or safely removed to be analysed

A5 Fire

If you discover a fire that involves pesticides, you should do the following:

  • for small fires which you can deal with quickly, safely and without causing a significant risk of exposure to fumes or other material produced by burning pesticides, use appropriate firefighting equipment
  • in all other circumstances, call the fire brigade and the police, and follow your evacuation procedures. Warn other people who may be at risk (for example, if fumes are blowing in their direction)
  • give the fire brigade a complete and accurate list of the products involved and their active ingredients
  • deal with any spilt pesticides resulting from the fire or firefighting activities as described above


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