Applying control products without personal protective equipment is like walking barefoot through broken glass – you may get through it fine sometimes, but you’re going to need stitches eventually.

Our cover story this month takes a look at legislative changes for those of you who do any sort of fumigation, especially as it relates to PPE and respirators. These changes are due in part to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health, “Fungicide Application Practices and Personal Protective Equipment Use Among Orchard Farmers in the Agricultural Health Study,” that had some interesting statistics drawn from observations of growers and producers in Iowa and North Carolina.

One of the statistics that jumps out at me is that only 35 percent of participants wore protective eyewear during mixing and only 41 percent used it during application. There are a number of reasons why this might be the case, but the most significant is likely education on the importance of eyewear during both parts of the process. Sometimes you’re rushing and you might forget; sometimes you don’t think it’s a big deal, especially if you’re spraying on a tractor with an enclosure.

Don’t risk it.

Another part of the report that stands out is this: “Only 18 percent of OFES applicators fully complied with PPE requirements during application, and none during mixing.”

That’s pretty shocking.

Applying control products is part of the business, and for orchards, vineyards and similar operations, spraying is a significant activity, often involving big foggers and sprayers that put out a huge volume of product into the air. While it’s easy to take the charge of “safety first” as a prime motivator for improving your practices and PPE use (and you should), there’s another angle: money.

Buying PPE means writing a check before you’ve even hit the field, and some of this gear isn’t cheap. However, injuries and downtime will cost a whole lot more. If you or your employees get sick or hurt because PPE wasn’t available or wasn’t used properly, that hits your bottom line in multiple places: insurance, medical bills, lost time, etc.

Can you afford to throw away that money on the back end to save a little on the front end?

So, it’s essential to get all the gear you need to make sure you and your staff are safe – from disposable gloves and coveralls to respirators and tractor enclosures. Secondly, make sure everyone that comes in contact with control products has the necessary instruction to use the gear properly; training pays dividends both in safety and application accuracy.

Drop us a note at growingletters@growingmagazine.com; we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Finally, we’re excited to announce a new column for our orchardists! Beginning this month and continuing every other issue, Sally Colby will be bringing you the best information from around the orchard world to help improve your operation. Turn to page A12 for our first Orchard Management column. Let us know what you think and what you’d like discussed in upcoming columns.