Extension Ag Update
November/December 2001
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Pesticide Storage and Security

Philip Nixon, Extension Specialist, Dept. Nat. Res. & Environ. Sci., 217-333-6650, pnixon@uiuc.edu and Bruce Paulsrud, Extension Specialist, Dept. of Crop Sci., 217-244-9646, paulsrud@uiuc.edu

Proper storage is important in keeping pesticides in good condition for use next year as well as keeping children and unauthorized people from tampering with these products. Pesticides should not be exposed to temperatures over 110 degrees F. or breakdown and loss of effectiveness can occur. Also, check the pesticide label to see if you should guard against freezing temperatures. Store your herbicides separately from insecticides, fungicides and other pesticides to avoid their contamination from herbicide fumes.

Pesticides should be kept locked up except when they are being used. Even when you remove a container of pesticide for use, you should keep the storage area locked while mixing and loading the sprayer, spreader, or other application equipment. Even if the storage area is in sight of the mixing and loading area, you may be called away to the phone or to assist someone else. Just a few minutes absence can be enough for a child or other person to find the storage area and become poisoned. With today's concern about terrorism, an unauthorized person entering the area may be more than a curious passerby. Sprayers, spreaders, and other pesticide application equipment should also be kept locked up and secured to protect it from tampering and accidents. Be especially watchful and suspicious of unauthorized people in these areas.

In addition to being kept locked, the pesticide storage area should be plainly labeled as a pesticide storage area. A sign stating "Danger - Pesticides - Keep Out" or similar information should be appropriate. If you have Hispanic employees who do not read English, then the warning should also be in Spanish. A list of stored pesticides should be kept in your office and with the local fire department. There should also be a map or other information as to which particular building and part of the building contains pesticides. This information can be very useful to the fire department for the protection of firefighters as well as avoiding environmental contamination from pesticide being carried away with water used to fight the fire.

Near the pesticide storage area there should be soap and water for washing any pesticide off of your hands or other skin areas. Maintain an eyewash station or at least have a faucet or hose for splashes into the eye. The first aid for eye exposure by many pesticides is to wash the eyeball with running water for at least fifteen minutes. Have a fire extinguisher handy because many pesticides are flammable. An absorbent material should be available for any liquid pesticide spills. This may be sawdust, kitty litter, oil dry, or specialized absorbent pads or "snakes" to surround and contain spills. Have a broom, dustpan, and trash can to pick up and store any dry spills or absorbed liquid spills until they can be disposed of properly. Pesticide labels will have a telephone number to contact the pesticide company on the proper method to dispose of spilled pesticide. Local emergency personnel such as fire and police departments as well as the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency can also provide assistance.

Use the following checklist to improve the safety and security of your facility and pesticide storage area:

  • For safety reasons, label your pesticide storage building with a sign stating "Danger-Pesticides-Keep Out" and post a list of emergency contacts at the main entrance to the storage area. Include the names, addresses, and phone numbers of at least two key employees, and the number for the police and the fire department. In addition, "Emergency: Dial 911" and the Illinois Poison Center (800-222-1222; this number works nation-wide) should also be listed.
  • Keep inventory records of pesticides up to date and easily accessible. A current inventory list and map clearly showing which building(s) or parts of buildings contain pesticides should be kept with the fire department in case there is a fire at your facility.
  • Have a complete label and Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for every product on the premises.
  • Ensure pesticide storage areas are locked and secure when unattended and strictly limit access to storage areas by limiting and tracking who has keys.
  • Storage areas should be well lighted and sturdy so any attempt to force entry will require a substantial effort that can be noticed and reported. To enhance security, provide adequate outside lighting and consider using a surveillance system or security service.
  • Block ramps and driveways at night and disable forklifts and other equipment that could be used during a theft. Secure application equipment to prevent sabotage, theft, and misuse. Inspect storage areas and equipment regularly.
  • Be alert to strangers that "snoop" around the facility and ask unusual questions and also to purchasers who:
    • seem unfamiliar with details of using a pesticide (ask them a few casual pest or pesticide usage questions), act nervous, seem uneasy or vague, and avoid eye contact;
    • demand immediate possession of purchased material rather than future delivery;
    • ask for material in smaller, individual containers rather than in bulk;
    • insist on paying with cash instead of using credit or a check.

In addition to your regular sales records (only licensed applicators may purchase restricted-use pesticides and the dealer is required to keep records), keep a log of suspicious persons or activities by writing down the date, suspicious activity, a physical description of the person, license plate number, and vehicle description. In the event of a theft or any signs of tampering or attempts to force entry, contact the police and provide them with a copy of your log book.

Be proactive and discuss pesticide safety, storage, and security issues with your employees.

For information on pesticide safety, visit http://www.pesticidesafety.uiuc.edu

The following agencies can be contacted to report possible pesticide terrorism: FBI- Chicago Office at (312) 431-1333; National Response System at (312) 353-2318; EPA Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) hotline at (800) 424-9346; or National Pesticide Telecommunications System at (800) 858-7378.