A key part of managing your grass effectively is the prudent use of herbicides, fungicides and, occasionally, insecticides to control the unwelcome problems that weeds, diseases and insects cause. The handling and use of these products is well taken care of through the PA1 and PA2, and PA6 certificates though everyone who uses them needs to be aware of how to store them safely and what your legal obligations are.
The store itself
Ideally, your store should be a self contained unit within your equipment shed that is separate from any office or staff room. It should be separately locked with clear hazard warnings on the front door of both the store and the exterior of the shed itself.
This is so the emergency services can identify the risk they are at if they are called to deal with any incident involving the place where the pesticides are stored. The shelving or racking must be up to the job and not go above shoulder height. The shelves must not have an upward lip either. This is so that there is less risk of spillage when removing containers from higher shelves (you never know when the top has not been put back on quite tight enough).
Organise you store well. Keep the types of products you have together - e.g. fungicides together and separate from herbicides. And definitely keep separate any total herbicides e.g. Roundup. It has been known for the less careful juniors to mistake glyphosate for a selective, and go down in folklore for this grave error.
Limit access to the store to nominated key holders and record the fact they are in possession of a key. Restricted access is important as it reduces the risk of these professional products being put to use outside of the professional area, and it limits the opportunity for disgruntled staff to cause mischief by contaminating products. There have been numerous cases of staff with grievances taking out their anger on the greens by mixing herbicides with fungicides, often causing several thousand pounds worth of damage in the process.
A secure store also means these potent tools are safe if opportunist thieves come calling. It is an extra line of defence that will deter any thief as it takes more time to access, when it may be quicker to settle for anything in easy reach.
All pesticide stores should be protected from frost. The label of most products will state the minimum temperature that it should be stored is above four degrees centigrade so, in the cooler months, make sure that you have a method of preventing the store from getting this cold.
What effect will frost have? All pesticides are made with various liquid components that all fit together to make the active ingredient work. There is the active ingredient, this will have surfactants to enable the active to penetrate the plant, oils or water to act as a bulking agent and a few other bits and bobs as needed. If these components get frosted, then they can 'split' and the solution they are in will separate. This will render the product useless.
It is good practice to maintain an active and up to date inventory of what is in your store. If possible two lists should be kept - one in the store and a separate one in an office so that it is easily accessible in the event of an emergency. It will let the fire and rescue service know what is in there so they know how to respond if there is an emergency. If there is a break in then there is a permanent record of what has gone. A well managed inventory will also help you use up old stock.
Products should never be allowed to languish at the back of the chemical store. They will only keep in store for about two years, after that their ingredients may degrade and not work. To stop this only order what you need, and always use what you have first. Many distributors can deliver within days, so use this and try to keep your inventory as low as is practical.
Out of date products
What's lurking at the back of your store? If you have anything that is older than two years it's not worth the risk of using it. Your grass is just too precious, and an out of date product can cause chlorosis (yellowing) or worse. The best solution is to get rid of old products by using a licensed waste contractor. This will cost money for disposal, but the benefit of this is will be cheaper and a lot less time consuming than repairing any damage and explaining what went wrong.
Every so often human nature means that things get spilt. It's serious when pesticides get spilt as they absolutely must not get washed away as they will contaminate surface water. This must be prevented and handling spills properly is easy. Inside your store keep some sand (Greenkeepers may be ahead of the game here) or vermiculite. If you have a spill then simply surround it with sand and then pour more over the liquid. This will absorb it. Then shovel the contaminated sand into a robust plastic bag. Brush up anything that is left and put that in the bag too. Keep the bag and its contents in the store - and again, get in touch with a licensed waste contractor to help dispose of it.
Using pesticides inevitably creates waste in the form of empties. The number of empties can be reduced by using more modern low dose products. Empties can be classified as controlled waste if they are un-rinsed. If they are triple rinsed then they lose this classification and can be safely disposed of with normal everyday waste - check with your waste handler to make sure they are able to take the plastic containers of this kind, though there should be no problem.
Used empties can pose a risk to water courses. Any undiluted product that is left in the container can be washed off by rain and seep into ground waters. Keep your empties under cover or inside, and keep them secure. Triple rinse them as soon as possible, this way they pose a far reduced risk to the environment before they are disposed of.
In the office
In addition to your inventory, it is also good practice to keep the information you have on the products up to date. Occasionally labels change and records must be kept to reflect this.
Keep a file with a specimen label of each of the products you use. This means you can refer to it without getting the keys to the chem store out and checking the label attached to the can. With the labels keep the MSDS (material safety data sheet) for the product. The MSDS is an essential part of performing the COSHH assessment for the use of the product. LERAPs are now part of the DEFRA statutory code of practice for the use of pesticide products.
Up to date LERAP
LERAP means Local Environment Risk Assessment for Pesticides If you manage an area that has a water feature or water course running through it then you need to perform a LERAP to assess how close you can spray to the water body. LERAPs need to be kept as part of your spray records and need to be reviewed periodically. Each product you use will require a separate LERAP as each has a rating of A, B or C depending on its risk to aquatic life. 'A' indicates there is no LERAP requirement. 'B' means there is a standard five metre buffer, though you can reduce this if you have means of limiting drift through low drift nozzles. Category 'C' products must have a five metre buffer. This cannot be reduced. There is an excellent guide to LERAPs available from the PSD website at www.pesticides.gov.uk.
The dark days of winter are an ideal time to perform LERAP if you haven't already, or review the ones you have done. If you do, record that you have reviewed it.
You can store up to 200 litres or 200kgs of professional products at once without registering your store. If you store more than this at any one time then BASIS can provide expert advice on what you need to make sure your store meets the legal requirements. More information is available at www.basis-reg.co.uk/ Anyone who is responsible for a store of this size needs to have completed a BASIS storekeeper's course. BASIS can provide details on this.
With the short winter days, when work outside becomes less of a pleasure, it makes sense to sort out your chem store and get your records for the year in order. This means you can get ahead of the game when spring comes around, and you can spend more time enjoying the vigour that great grass can have when the days get longer.