Growsafe - Agrichemical Safety Procedures

October 2005
John Wiessing is a former vet from Dargaville who began developing avocado orchards in 1999 on the westerly slopes of Whatatiri, a large hill to the west of Whangarei. The land has gentle aspect, volcanic soil and community irrigation scheme.

He has one block of 20ha of which 16ha is planted, beginning in 1999, and has five and six-year trees. The other nearby block of 35ha has 20ha planted, and these are younger trees.

John does all his own orchard management, spraying etc. and has three spray units: a Cropliner 920, a handgun worked from a tractor and a weed sprayer mounted on a quad bike. He has two chemical storage area, including a fridge and deep freeze.

John was motivated to get his Growsafe certificate renewed to become an approved handler under the new HSNO (Hazardous Substances and New Organisms) Act, because he believes he is producing food, that markets require food safety assurance for and this dovetails with spray diaries, withholding times and general agrichemical safety procedures. Besides, it will be mandatory in 2007.

Approved Handler (Growsafe introductory certificate)

Approved Handler introductory courses provide essential information and instruction for anyone using agrichemicals. Orchards are users of registered chemicals for pest and disease control. Before 31 December 2006, all persons who use or distribute agrichemicals must be Approved Handlers, with a certificate for five years. The Growsafe introductory certificate is a programme that is recognised by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) that delivers the theoretical knowledge for the Approved Handler certificate. Grow and Spray Ways is an accredited trainer, and conducts courses wherever there is a need. Because tens of thousands of people need the certificates, the demand for courses is expected to become great in the run-up to the end-2006 deadline.

John Wiessing did his course earlier this year at the Golden Mile packhouse, near Whangarei, organised by Team Avocado.

The Approved Handler course is a one-day course which covers the HSNO Act requirements, management of agrichemicals, interpreting labels, understanding the need for safe use of agrichemicals, identifying spray hazards, protective clothing, applying agrichemicals safely and accurately, calibration check of knapsack sprayer, avoiding drift and targeting applications.

There are huge penalties under the HSNO Act for people who get it wrong. Occupational Safety and Health are training up more enforcement officers who will be able to gather evidence for prosecuting people for non-compliance. They will have the power to issue fines and compliance orders.