Using and storing chemicals
Many chemicals can be hazardous to the environment if they are used, handled or stored incorrectly. Commonly used chemicals include fertilisers, fuels, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, baits and paints. All require special precautionary practices to protect both the environment and your health.
Correct use, handling, storage and disposal of chemicals can help prevent pollution of the soil, stormwater drains and local waterways, and avoid harm to people, property, plants and animals. And with very little effort you may be able to avoid products and chemicals which can affect your health or damage the environment.
There may be less environmentally damaging and lower toxicity materials on the market than those you are currently using. Ask your suppliers.
Have you got all the Material Safety Data Sheets?
You should have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all chemicals you use. They contain information about the chemical concerned and how to safely store, use and dispose of it.
If you don't have MSDS, ask your chemical supplier to get them for you.
Always read and follow the information on the labels of chemical products. They will contain essential information about the possible harmful effects of the chemical, and procedures for safe use.
Never store chemicals in incorrectly labelled containers.
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All chemicals should be stored in a lock-up that has an impervious floor and is bunded (walled) so that it will contain 110% of the contents of the largest container, should it spill or leak.
Put waste chemicals in sealed containers for hazardous waste collection. Find out from the local council where and how to dispose of hazardous materials safely. Contact your supplier to find out if they take used containers.
Special requirements for pesticides
Minimising pesticide use
In the design stage of a job you can plan to reduce the future use of pesticides by:
- avoiding monocultures and favouring a diversity in the planting scheme
- selecting plant species or varieties which are known to be pest resistant in the area.
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Proper use of pesticides
Under the Pesticides Act 1999, pesticide users must use only pesticides which have been registered or otherwise permitted by the National Registration Authority for the specific weed or pest and situation of use, and must strictly follow label or permit directions.
The definition of pesticides under the Act is broad and includes herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and baits. Pesticide users must also take all reasonable precautions to avoid causing harm to people, property and non-target plants and animals.
More detail about pesticide laws is available in a fact sheet - Pesticides Act 1999: your responsibilities
People who use pesticides as part of their work will have to keep records of their pesticide use. See details of the record keeping requirements.
From 1 September 2003 there are new rules under the Pesticides Act that make training compulsory for commercial users of pesticides. See details of the new compulsory training requirements.
Use protective clothing and the appropriate plant and equipment as recommended by the manufacturer.
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General spill procedures
- Stop the source of the spill immediately, if it is safe to do so.
- The Fire Brigade will always be willing to help you clean up a spill and prevent pollution. If in doubt contact your local Fire Brigade.
- Contain the spill and control its flow. Refer to the relevant MSDS. Stop the spill from entering any stormwater drains by blocking the drain inlets.
- Clean up the spill promptly by following the relevant MSDS.
- It is important to clean up all spills quickly, even small ones, as they can easily flow into stormwater drains or be washed there by rain.
- Develop and practise a spill clean-up procedure so that everyone on site knows what to do.
- Keep emergency equipment to deal with spills. This should include booms to contain liquids, material to prevent spills entering drains and material to absorb spills such as kitty litter or dry sand. Your `spill kit' should be clearly labelled and stored in an easily accessible location.
If a spill occurs that threatens or harms the environment, you must by law inform the EPA or the local council as soon as you become aware of it.
Make sure you and all people on site know where to find emergency telephone numbers to call in case of a large spill.
For large scale hazardous spills call the Fire Brigade immediately on 000. For small scale spills, follow the MSDS for the spilled substance.
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Strategies to minimise impact
- Avoid products and chemicals that can affect your health and damage the environment. There may be less environmentally damaging materials or lower toxicity products on the market. Ask your supplier.
- Always read the manufacturer's health warnings and follow safe practices.
- Do not allow hazardous chemicals to soak into the ground and take care not to spill chemicals. Contaminants can enter the groundwater and eventually reach rivers or our drinking water. They can also make the site unusable.
- Clean up all spills immediately to prevent contamination of the ground and stormwater. Absorbent materials, such as those found in commercial spill kits, are useful
- for soaking up liquids. If the soil becomes contaminated then the top layers should be scraped off as soon as possible and treated as hazardous waste.
Page last updated: 27 February 2011