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Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Chemicals and pesticides

Pest management technicians: more information

This information is for pest management technicians and people employed by pest management businesses who undertake pest control and fumigation activities. It provides guidance on how you can comply with the Pesticides Act 1999 and ensure that your work practices minimise harm to the community and the environment.

You must also comply with the requirements of the Pesticides Regulation 2009. A summary of the requirements is provided in the pest management technicians fact sheet (PDF 210KB).

What the Pesticides Act means for you

The Pesticides Act 1999 regulates and controls the use of pesticides in NSW. This applies in both urban and agricultural situations. Under this Act all pesticide users in NSW are required to:

  • only use pesticides registered or permitted by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)
  • obtain an APVMA permit if you wish to use a pesticide in a way not covered by the label
  • read the approved label and/or APVMA permit for the pesticide product (or have the label/permit read to you) and strictly follow the label directions
  • prevent injury to persons, damage to property or harm to non-target plants and animals through the use of a pesticide
  • make and keep a record of pesticide applications.

The Pesticides Act is administered by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

What happens if you don't comply

In NSW, the misuse of pesticides may be subject to large fines - up to $120,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a corporation. Penalty notices of up to $400 for an individual and $800 for a corporation can also be issued for less serious offences.

Penalties also apply for pollution of any waters – up to $120,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a corporation. Penalty notices of up to $750 for an individual and $1500 for a corporation can also be issued for less serious offences.

Who else regulates pesticides

The APVMA assesses and registers pesticides, and regulates those chemicals up to and including the point of sale. States and territories control the use of pesticides beyond the point of sale.

Pest management technicians and fumigators must have a licence issued by NSW EPA and these must be renewed every five years. Pest management businesses who undertake pest management technician and fumigation work also have a responsibility under occupational health and safety laws to ensure that their staff and the people who use their services are not adversely affected by pesticides. SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) administers NSW's work health and safety laws and provides information about using pesticides safely in the workplace. Under the Work Health & Safety Regulation 2011, pest management technicians are required to obtain, read and understand Safety Data Sheets (SDS) about the pesticides they use. You can get SDSs from chemical suppliers.

Planning your pesticide application

Before you buy a pesticide think about any non-chemical pest management strategies that could be used to control a pest. Examples of non-chemical pest management strategies are available.

If you need to use a pesticide, choose the least persistent and least toxic chemical. (This may not always be an option, for example, where residual activity is required for effective treatment.)

Always read the approved product label or permit and follow all label directions. You should also obtain and read the Safety Data Sheets for that product. In NSW it is illegal to not follow the label directions on a pesticide.

Before you apply pesticides outdoors, consider the weather conditions and only spray if you can minimise the risk of spray drift and prevent off-target impacts.

Before you apply pesticides inside premises, talk to the residents about removing or protecting items or furniture that should not be sprayed, such as cooking utensils, children's cots and toys.

Before applying pesticides at a school or childcare centre, suggest to the school principal or childcare centre manager that they schedule this work during school holidays or weekends.

Notifying others

It is compulsory to give notice to residents while treating the common areas of multiple occupancy complexes and for certain pesticide uses next door to sensitive places - see Notification of pesticide use.

Some labels and permits require the pesticide user to notify residents, neighbours or other members of the public. You must follow these label instructions. Look out for particular notification requirements relating to:

  • signage
  • access and re-entry (such as ventilation)
  • odour
  • spraying within a certain distance of a property boundary or dwelling (buffer zones).

Even if you are not required to notify neighbours about any pesticides you are about to use, this is good practice and can help to avoid complaints or disputes. In particular, inform the managers of nearby sensitive places (such as hospitals, schools and childcare centres) so they can take steps to make sure the area is avoided if necessary, or advise parents and patients that a pesticide application is coming up.

There are some easy steps you can take to notify people about pesticide applications.

Applying pesticides

  • Minimise the number of articles that need to be washed (such as measuring containers, funnels and stirrers) when preparing and applying pesticides.
  • Wear personal protective equipment as directed on the product label or required under occupational health and safety legislation.
  • Where appropriate, add rinsates to the tank of pesticide to be used.

After applying pesticides

What records do you need to keep?

Under the Pesticides Regulation 2009, you are required to make and keep a record of every pesticide application you make.

You must make a record of:

  • who applied the pesticide
  • what was applied
  • how, when and where it was applied
  • what it was applied to and how much was applied
  • an estimate of the wind speed and direction if the pesticide was applied outdoors using spray equipment - the Bureau of Meterology website has a Beaufort Scale that can be used to assist in recording wind speed for pesticide record keeping purposes.

The record must be made within 24 hours of using the pesticide and kept for three years.

Another person can make the record for you but it is your responsibility to make sure the record is accurate.

More comprehensive information on pesticide record keeping requirements can be found on the keeping records of pesticide use webpage.

You can develop your own method of recording pesticide use or use the EPA's pesticides sample record keeping form (PDF 155KB).

When is it safe for people to re-enter a site?

Before you decide that it is safe for people to re-enter a site where pesticides have been applied, make sure:

  • the area has been adequately ventilated
  • there is no vapour or smell present - remember that exposure to odour, as well as vapour, can affect people's health.

Check the label for instructions on re-entry periods and ventilation, refer to the MSDS or contact the chemical manufacturer for advice.

How should you clean up and dispose of pesticide waste?

  • Always follow any label directions on the management and disposal of empty pesticide containers, including any rinsing and recycling requirements.
  • Never dispose of pesticide waste or rinsates down drains, toilets, sinks, gully traps, roadsides, kerbs, gutters and stormwater drains or into bodies of water. Remember that you can be prosecuted for allowing pesticides to pollute waters.
  • Water that you have used to rinse pesticide containers or to clean application equipment should be collected and used to make up the next compatible spray mixture.
  • Never dispose of wastes or containers in public litter bins, private garbage bins or leave waste out in the street for municipal collection.
  • Take empty, clean and dry pesticide containers marked with the drumMUSTER logo to a drumMUSTER collection point for recycling. Containers should be triple-rinsed (rinsed three times) or preferably pressure rinsed. Leave the caps off the containers. More information about triple-rinsing pesticide containers is available in the Environmental guidelines: Assessment, classification and management of liquid and non-liquid wastes.
  • If a drumMUSTER program does not operate in the area, collection agency agreements or mobile collections will operate. Call Agsafe's drumMUSTER's head office on (02) 6230 6712 for more information.
  • You may need to take containers that do not show the drumMUSTER logo to a solid waste landfill (subject to the approval of the landfill management). Make sure the containers are triple-rinsed.

More information

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
For information on pesticide assessment, registration, labeling, off-label permits and selecting the right chemical to use
(02) 6210 4748

SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover)
For information on work health and safety
Information Centre 13 10 50

For information on how to safely dispose of pesticide containers
(02) 6230 6712

Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association
For industry news and events
1300 307 114 or 02 9221 7000

Australian Pest Controllers' Association
For industry news and events
1300 660 200

Page last updated: 13 October 2016