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Agrichemical safety practices on farms in the western Cape

L London


In order to study agrichemical safety practices in a rural farming area in the western Cape, an audit of 45 randomly sampled farms was performed over 3 months in 1992. A response rate of 87% was achieved, and the survey results suggest that approximately 9% of permanent and 14% of seasonal farm workers are employed in jobs with potential exposure to agrichemicals. While protective equipment was widely available, gloves and masks were seldom used, with little enforcement or commercial support from the suppliers of the equipment. Farm workers receive little training on pesticide safety, but interest in the possibility of further training for workers was high. In the absence of a system of pesticide disposal, the presence of residual, unwanted and outdated stocks of pesticides in farmers' stores, and to a lesser extent the presence of empty containers, are identified as important problems. Current pesticide storage practices require improvement by simple industrial hygiene measures. Health facilities available to workers on most farms are extremely limited, particularly in the light of statutory requirements for occupational safety and health under the Machinery and Occupational Safety Act. It is argued that collective solutions to problems of pesticide safety are possible within the ambit of a public health response, particularly given the willingness of the farming community to identify and address potential health problems. As a result, initiatives to meet these needs are currently under way in the region.