Working With Biocides – Workplace Safety

Biocides are used to control or kill organic materials such as insects, bacteria, fungi, animals and viruses. They work either biological or chemical means. When working with biocides, there are strict control measures in place. You must stick to the relevant safety legislation to use them. This is part of the laws laid out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

biocides warning sign

Using and Storing Biocides

Before you use any type of biocide, you must ensure that it has been approved for use by the relevant registration authority.

Depending on the type of product being used, you might need to check one of two different regulations:

  • The Plant Protection Products Regulations
    • which controls predominantly pesticides used for plant protection which encompasses both agricultural and garden use.
  • The Biocidal Products Regulations
    • which controls other mainly non-agricultural products such as rodenticides, wood preservatives and disinfectants.

Following Correct Procedures

Once you are sure that you are using a licensed product which has been fully regulated, it’s important that you read the label and follow any other instructions to the letter.

When storing biocides, ensure that the containers which are used are of an appropriate design and size. You should store them in a location which is secure so that any spillage or leakage cannot escape to pollute any waters nearby.

Where a workplace produces a vast amount of biocides, it’s important that there are provisions for a secondary storage device which can contain the total supply of biocides should a leakage occur.

For more information about storing biocides, the HSE can offer useful advice. Where leakages or spillages should occur, however, it’s crucial that you inform the Environmental Health Department as soon as possible.


Disposing of Unused Biocides

Once again, your local Environment Health Department will advise you of ways you can dispose of biocides safely. They can also advise and how to wash out any containers afterwards. Further details are also available in the Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products.


Biocides and Health

Many biocides products contain chemicals. Formaldehyde is just one example, and there are other ingredients which can cause skin disorders, respiratory problems, and cancer.

That’s why it’s necessary to follow strict regulations with regards to working with biocides and to things like ensuring that there is adequate ventilation, that workers are given the right protective clothing and that they are trained and fully competent to work in this field.

The two main pieces of legislation which cover this are the Biocidal Products Regulations in the UK (BPR). Europe also has its own directive of which we are also subject to which is called the European Biocidal Products Directive (BPD).

Many people who work with biocides only begin to suffer symptoms of potential illnesses which may have been caused by the incorrect management of exposure to biocides many years later in life.

In order to reduce the risks companies must ensure that they take full responsibility in minimising possible health problems by offering regular medical checks, maintaining equipment, providing protective clothing and suitable ventilation.

If you feel your health is at risk, or you feel that you are suffering health problems as a direct consequence of working with biocides, you should contact the HSE for more advice.

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