Hazard Communication / Handling Chemicals - Article Provided by: National Association of Landscape Professionals

Click here for the PDF

Hazard Communication / Handling Chemicals

Article Provided by: National Association of Landscape Professionals

Chemical exposure can cause or contribute to serious health issues including cancer, heart problems, damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, and lungs, burns, and rashes, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Some chemicals also can cause fires, explosions, and other accidents. Landscape-industry workers encounter chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers and things such as paint, propane, kerosene, cleaning solvents, and welding fumes. An effective hazard communication program can protect employees from harmful exposure to these chemicals.


Employee Dos and Don’ts


  • Understand what makes a chemical “hazardous.” These substances pose human health hazards (are carcinogens, corrosive or have an effect on the lungs, skin, eyes, mucous membranes, etc.), physical hazards (flammable, explosive, etc.) or environmental hazards.


  • Know the goal of your employer’s hazard communication program and training. They aim to ensure you understand the hazards of chemicals you could encounter and how to protect yourself.


  • Be aware chemicals are harmful based on their toxicity and the amount of exposure a person receives. Because you could be handling chemicals repeatedly and for extended time periods, protecting yourself is very important.


  • Read product labels and follow all manufacturers’ precautions. Read the label in a setting where you can give the information your full attention – not at the jobsite, where you’ll be focused on getting the work done.


  • Be knowledgeable about labels. They tell you about health precautions, first-aid procedures and required personal protective equipment. This can include a respirator and certain types of gloves.


  • Always wear the PPE chemical labels state is required. This often includes gloves, eye protection, a long-sleeved shirt, pants and a respirator.


  • Know where to find safety data sheets (SDSs) and eyewash stations. These should be at your company’s facilities and jobsites.


  • Apply each chemical at the rate specified on its label.


  • Be aware of how chemical contamination can occur. Your hands are the part of your body most likely to contact chemicals. From there, substances can be transferred to your face, other parts of your body, the food you eat and surfaces other people will touch. Even workers who wear gloves can get chemicals on their hands by touching the outside of the gloves after they take them off.


  • Wash your hands with a jug of water and soap after handling any chemical. Because hand sanitizers are designed to kill bacteria and do not remove material from the hands, they won’t protect you from chemicals or other non-organic matter.


  • After work, shower and wash work clothes separately from other clothes.


  • Follow the directions on the appropriate SDS or product label if you or a co-worker is exposed to a chemical.



  • Work with a chemical before receiving related training. You should learn the hazards associated with the chemical and how to protect yourself. If you don’t feel you have received or understood adequate training, notify your supervisor/crew leader.


  • Transport any chemical unless you have been trained in using a spill kit to contain it.


  • Reuse or refill a chemical container. Only do this if your supervisor/crew leader tells you to do so and you are following instructions on the product label. An improperly labeled container can result in the wrong use of a chemical, a fire or explosion and injuries or deaths.


  • Put chemicals in unlabeled containers. There is an exception if you are transferring a chemical from a labeled container to a portable container that is only intended for your immediate use (if you are diluting a chemical in a spray container, for example).


  • Use defective chemical-application equipment. Inspect all items before each use and keep spare parts such as clamps and hoses on hand.


  • Apply chemicals before clearing the area of people and pets.


  • Spray chemicals on a windy day.