Future pain or future gain?

Paul Singletonin Industry News

The substitution of the word 'Risk' by the word 'Hazard' was approved by the European Parliament towards the end of last year, when an EU Directive established a change in the way that pesticides are approved and, in essence, set out revisions to the article 91/414. The approvals process for pesticides in the UK has worked well, and with an excellent safety record for many years, since the Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR) was introduced in the UK in 1986 and then, in part, changed by the introduction of the EU Plant Protection Products Regulations in the early 1990s (PPPR).

Until then, the effects on people, the environment and biodiversity, from pesticides, had been assessed on risk issues and, so, if a potentially harmful product had a label or a formulation or a restricted field of use, or all of those, to ensure its use was safe, then that was the way it was approved, i.e. with a tight control on restricted use of the product in ways which avoided risk.

However, for some people, that process was not enough. So now, in future, if the product (or it's formulation ingredients) are considered "harmful", then the product will not be approved, even if the risk is minimal.

The other day, I heard the analogy that the situation we are now in is like owning a car that will do 140mph. Previously, driving tests, the Highway Code, Autobahn rules etc. permitted fast driving within the 'Risk' rules, but now, it would not be possible to even sell the 140mph car because it could be 'Harmful' - an interesting view!

Of course, this whole issue hangs on the definition of 'Harmful', and that is what scientists around Europe are seeking to define, so we will all just have to wait and see. That definition will eventually inform us which pesticides we can keep and which will go.

As if that is not enough, along come the three initial letters - SUD - Sustainable Use Directive. This abridged wording relates to the second part of the new EU Directive which is due to be implemented in the UK by November 2011, and it is expected that it will affect the working practices of professional pesticide users more than any other legislation since 1986. How? - Answer, in many ways.

The SUD focuses on a cross section of issues which include training, qualification and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of advisers, managers, operators and others involved in professional pesticide use.

There have already been some very significant actions taken to facilitate the capability to deliver the directive's requirements. Many of the actions are in the Amenity sector because all the information available shows that this sector is behind agriculture in qualifications, training and CPD type activities.

In qualifications, BASIS has revised the Field Sales and Technical Staff Certificate to give it specific purpose for three skills areas from which candidates select, i.e. hard and permeable surface weed control; sports and amenity turf and shrubs and borders. Successful candidates, who attain this certificate are qualified and legally recognised as competent to give advice on the use of pesticides in the sector they selected, and on which they were examined.

There is also the recent introduction of the Foundation Award in Amenity, which is designed as a short (circa 2 days) training course to inform managers, supervisors, contract specifiers etc. of the ways that professional pesticides can be used safely and effectively.

To recognise the required increase in training and qualifications that the SUD will bring, BASIS has also introduced the BASIS Amenity Register.

This register is for managers, supervisors, advisers, contract specifiers and those who have a need to be up to date with Amenity pesticide use and knowledge (spray operators will be members of the NRoSO Scheme with PA qualifications).

The BASIS Amenity Register will enable those who are already qualified, and those who intend to become qualified, to be part of the independent, confidential register, to capture CPD events, training and qualifications and maintain ongoing records as an individual.

There will be an annual points requirement to ensure membership is carried forward each year.

Membership of the BASIS Amenity Register will demonstrate that the person is up-to-date and 'a knowledgeable person' in the use of Professional Amenity Pesticides.

The POWER qualification is also being updated by BASIS and City & Guilds NPTC to provide training and focus for those who wish to concentrate on the Protection of Water and Environmental issues.

More than two years ago BASIS introduced the Amenity Assured Scheme to audit and annually certificate Amenity contractors to show compliance with a set of standards (Best Practice) agreed between BASIS, NAAC and City & Guilds NPTC.

The Amenity Assured Scheme has grown about 10% a year since its formation, and a survey last year showed that more than 18,000 miles of Network Rail mainline track, more than 200 local authorities (roads and pavements), and many golf courses, recreational areas, sports areas and utility sites were cared for and sprayed by Amenity Assured contractors.

BASIS is now setting up the Amenity Assured audit as a standard which can be used across the whole amenity sector as best practice guidance.

As in all walks of life, those contractors, operators, companies and local authorities who are employing qualified people and doing "best practice" work, have nothing to fear from the changes. The use of alternative, integrated approaches will also be key for the future, as part of best practice. However, to those who think "this doesn't apply to me!", beware! It will.

By Paul Singleton - Chairman of BACCS and Amenity Assured

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