With changes in the law on the way, sprayer operators of a certain age need to ensure they are suitably qualified to continue
With changes in the law on the way, sprayer operators of a certain age and currently operating under the so called Grandfather Rights exemption need to ensure that by November next year they are suitably qualified to continue to apply pesticides on their land, occupied or rented land, or land belonging to their employers. Dominic Kilburn looks at what legislative changes are afoot.
Were you born before 31st December 1964 and currently apply professional crop protection products to your, or your employers land under the Grandfather Rights exemption? If its a yes, then you have until 26th November 2015 to get a qualification in order for you to continue to operate as you do now as well as being able to continue to purchase agrochemicals. Fail to act between now and then and you will not meet the legislative requirements of The Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012 which could lead to prosecution for non-compliance. It may also, in future, threaten eligibility for the Single Farm Payment. Why the change? There are some key issues occurring under the umbrella of the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) within the next three years and implementing the SUD in the UK will bring about new rules and changes that potentially affect every agricultural holding across the country one of the changes relates to the Grandfather Rights exemption.
According to the Voluntary Initiative (VI), farmers who have adopted the best practices it and others have promoted over the past decade will not find the challenges of the SUD too arduous, but literally every holding or farm that applies pesticides to a paddock, using a knapsack sprayer for a few thistles right up to the largest arable estates, will have to comply. Everyone who uses plant protection products (PPPs) authorised for professional use must hold a Certificate of Competence.
There are two options for sprayer operators who currently operate under Grandfather Rights and who wish to continue to apply and purchase pesticides:
– First made available in November 2013 is a City & Guilds NPTC Certificate of Competence qualification (Level 2 Award in Safe Use of Pesticides Replacing Grandfather Rights) for those born before 31st December 1964. Attaining this qualification will enable operators to meet the legislative requirements of the regulations mentioned above. However, unlike the existing NPTC Level 2 Award in the Safe use of Pesticides certificate, which anyone born after 31st December 1964 currently has to achieve in order to apply pesticides, the Grandfather Rights replacement certificate wont allow them to apply pesticides on any land except their own, or their employers, therefore ruling out the option of the operator being able to apply pesticides in the role of a contractor.
– The other option, and one which is recommended by those who run courses to prepare operators for the exams, is to simply gain the long established NPTC Level 2 Award in the Safe use of Pesticides qualification (which those born after 31st December 1964 have to take anyway) and which will allow the operator the freedom to apply pesticides on a contractual basis on other land, in addition to on their, or their employers land. This qualification is divided into 15 units. PA1 is the foundation unit covering the relevant legislation, and is based on theory, while units PA2PA13 and PASC (special category equipment) involve applying pesticides via different methods. Candidates must complete the mandatory PA1 (the test can be taken remotely on a laptop computer) and one other unit from PA2PA13 or PASC (all practical tests with verbal one-to-one questioning). Well trained Chris Gage has been running CA (Cambridge Area) Training since 2005. The organisation delivers agricultural and land-based training courses in Cambridgeshire, east Suffolk and north Hertfordshire and, as a Lantra Awards accredited provider, courses offered can lead to a variety of qualifications and certification including City & Guilds, NPTC, BASIS, FACTS and NRoSO.
He says that one of the strengths of CA Training is that both he and the instructors have all been involved in either farm management, or working for major agricultural businesses, and this direct involvement in the industry means that they are tuned in to the type of training that farming companies require their employees to have.
According to Chris, training for the Grandfather Rights replacement is very similar to that which is undertaken for PA1 and PA2 (or PA4) and a minimum of two days, followed by a days assessment which still includes a basic module combined with application-specific modules. However, the NPTC Level 2 Award Safe use of Pesticides has been a well-trodden path to getting people to use pesticides safely since the late 1980s and so its difficult to justify going down the Grandfather Rights replacement route which doesnt give one the flexibility to spray on other peoples land, he says. In addition, the cost of the PA1 and PA2 training and assessment is not vastly different to the Grandfather Rights replacement. Over the course of last winter, CA Training had as many as 45 people attending Natural England-funded PA1, PA2 and PA4 courses in Suffolk alone, and Chris says there are more people waiting to attend courses this autumn, when field operations quieten down again.
There have also been similar events run by other training groups in other parts of East Anglia, he adds. The feedback is that most people have found the courses interesting and a positive experience with attendees saying that they enjoyed exchanging ideas with other operators who were in the same situation and getting a better overall understanding about pesticide legislation. On course Attending a CA Training-organised PA1 course being delivered by CKFS instructor Chris Keeble in February was Suffolk grower Martin Knock (left), who farms at Battisford near Stowmarket and Kettlebaston near Hitcham. Crops on the 115ha (280 acre) heavy land farm include wheat, peas, beans, sugar beet and linseed. Martin said that due to his age he fell just inside the Grandfather Rights exemption bracket and realised that, with a change in legislation, he would have to take an exam in the near future if he wanted to continue operating the sprayer on his farm, as well as purchasing the agrochemicals. In fact it was his agrochemical supplier that suggested to Martin that he would be better off selecting the NPTC Level 2 Award in the Safe use of Pesticides qualification; starting with one days training for the foundation unit PA1 (theory), followed by another days training for the module PA2 Boom Sprayer (practical). I do all the spraying on the farm but its also important to me for the future that I have the potential to offer my services to neighbours in the area and do some contract spraying, and so there was no point in me going down the Grandfather Rights replacement route and then not able to operate a sprayer on someone elses land, commented Martin.
If you are going to take a test then you might as well have the flexibility to be able to diversify your business, he added. Martin last took a pesticide-related one-day course back in 1987 a Certificate of Training. I understand that the test this time around will be similar to the one I took in 1987, perhaps including a little more detail, but from what I have seen so far there is enough reference material made available to see me through it.
The important thing is that, over a long period of time, it is possible to get into bad habits when spraying which you might not be aware of. Attending the courses and taking a test will put me right if needed, and, in the long-term, will be of benefit to my business, pointed out Martin. Taken the test David Wilson of Wood Farm, Stonham Aspal near Stowmarket in Suffolk has recently completed his PA1 (training and test) as well as training for PA2. In addition, hes registered an interest in taking PA6 (handheld applicators) and recognises that PA4G (pesticide granular applicator) may be of use in the future.
David has 120ha (300 acres) of land divided into two parcels; one at Stonham Aspal and the other at nearby Framlingham. Farm operations are contracted out, including the spraying of winter wheat, spring barley and oilseed rape. David does a small amount of boom spraying himself at his home block, in addition to weed killing with a knapsack sprayer around the yard.
Id picked up the news about the forthcoming Grandfather Rights deadline in Farmers Guide as well as getting information via Natural Englands Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) campaign, and although the deadline was some way off I thought it best to get on the courses reasonably early, comments David, who, being born prior to the 1964 Grandfather Rights exemption cut-off date, hadnt previously taken any pesticide-related test. I did the PA1 and PA2 training courses with CA Training and they were very informative days. Ive spoken to a lot of others who have also recently done the courses and they all agree that they are very good for helping you to remember one or two things that you might previously have forgotten, or that you didnt know. The courses help avoid any complacency, he adds. David passed his PA1 test soon after attending training; taking the multiple choice exam on a laptop. It wasnt too onerous and I think I only got one answer wrong, he notes. You are given all the relevant books to read and as long as you do that, it really isnt too hard. Although David says that he is unlikely to spray other peoples land in the future, he does suggest that the PA1 and PA2 option of a Safe Use of Pesticides certificate is the better route to go down compared with the Grandfather Rights replacement. Im not bothered about spraying other peoples land, but many people are, and so you may as well do the test that everyone else born after the 1964 date has to take, and which gives you more flexibility. Need to get a Safe use of Pesticides qualification? – Look for a local training provider. A good website is www.ukruralskills.co.uk. It lists a wide range of training providers across the UK, or find your local City & Guilds NPTC committee. – Talk to neighbours who have done the training and ask them for advice Contact your nearest agricultural college for advice. – Useful websites include: www.lantra.co.uk; www.cityandguilds.com; www.nptc.org.uk
What you might expect from PA1 training Dominic Kilburn enlisted himself on a PA1 training day in Suffolk and briefly highlights some of the key subject areas covered on the day-long course. Running a CA Training-organised PA1 course on a farm near the Suffolk coast recently, instructor Chris Keeble (left) explained that the PA1 course is all based on theory, with the practical side of things taken care of on other courses and tests including anything from PA2PA13 and PASC modules all to ensure that sprayer operators have the background knowledge required to use pesticides properly. The PA1 test is multiple choice, said Chris, who has been training farmers and their employees in East Anglia in the correct use of pesticides for 28 years. There are 33 multiple choice questions over seven sections, of which 24 must be correct, but there must be a spread of correct answers in all of the sections, he noted. PA1 is based on a weighty Defra, HSE and PSD-produced tome called Pesticides Code of Practice for using plant protection products, and this was handed out to students at the start of the day. Although the Code of Practice seems a little lengthy to consider digesting in its entirety when it comes to pre-test homework, a BCPC guide (an abbreviated version of the Code) is also handed out at the start of the day for reference. Its the Highway Code of pesticides, pointed out Chris, who made it clear from the start that the law states that anyone using pesticides has to be competent in their use. Its all about protecting your health and others, as well as the environment, he stressed.
Environmental legislation Divided into seven different subject areas, Chris began the course with Environmental Legislation explaining to attendees that while they are not expected to learn the individual environmental legislation Acts (of which there are many and all listed in the Code), operators need to be aware in particular of legislation involved with water pollution and the disposal of pesticides. Legislation is to protect the environment and particularly so in relation to pesticides, and sharpening up on environmental good practice means you are keeping up with the law, but it can also save a business money, pointed out Chris. He reminded students that application rates are legally binding on the person applying the product, and not the agronomist who may originally have provided the recommendation. All legislation points to the user its your responsibility, he added.
Pesticide labels Pesticide labels was the second area of focus and each student was given a different example of a label to look at and it was made clear to them that, in the test itself, participants will be expected to know how to interpret one. Course notes indicate that pesticide labels are very detailed and form part of product approval. Operators must be able read labels carefully and identify the statutory items on them such as information on LERAPS, crop use, maximum dose rates and harvest intervals etc. It is legally binding on the user that he is aware of, and abides by, this information.
Any sprayer operator should read the label in addition to the agronomy sheet provided by the agronomist, Chris said.
Personal and public safety Turning to Personal and public safety, Chris explained this meant that employers are required to produce risk assessments in writing, before any work takes place and employees must be given the results of these assessments to minimise the risk of physical harm to the employee or others in the work place.
Its about identifying hazards they are always there and they have the potential to cause harm and the key word on every spray can is hazard. It should be assumed that all pesticides and machinery are hazardous and its how you store them, or use them, is what stops them causing harm, he explained. Chris went into detail on the selection and use of protective clothing; highlighting the minimum requirements for the handling of pesticides such as coveralls (the different types from cheap disposables to more expensive waterproof and washable), gloves, face shields and rubber boots. These were all items that would come up in the PA1 test, he added.
Safe and suitable storage for pesticides Pesticide storage plays a big part in personal, public and environmental safety, advised Chris, who pointed out that there were some key points to consider when constructing a new store or improving an existing one, details of which would be part of the test: – Site including access for the sprayer and being located away from a watercourse
– Construction materials, ventilation, strength, frost protection, fire precautions and bunding
– Interior shelving segregation, lighting, spillage controls
– Washing and decontamination
– Empty containers washing, rinsing, draining and locked away
– Security (from children as well as theft)
Pesticide and container disposal The code of practice for plant protection products covers all aspects of disposal of containers and unwanted residues, pointed out Chris, however he suggested to students that careful planning, correct ordering, accurate calibration and application techniques should minimise disposal needs. Operators need to cut out waste production when they are planning a spray programme; order enough product to do the job in hand, mix enough for the task and no more, he stated. New equipment or retro-fitted equipment minimises the amount of rinse water required, he suggested, while he reminded students that containers must not be burned or incinerated in the workplace.
Remember to follow the code of practice guidelines, he added. It covers all aspects of disposal of containers and unwanted product and residues.
Record keeping The course focused on the fact that there is a legal obligation to keep records for pesticides of which there are three principle types:
– Storage records/ stock list Keep them up to date and one copy away from the store including approximate quantities and precise types of product stored. – Application records All applications must be recorded and kept for at least three years with the records remaining at the property where the application has taken place and always available for inspection. – COSHH records Assessment of risk; exposure records; maintenance of respiratory equipment; checks of any engineering or mechanical controls; health monitoring.
Environmental factors The seventh and final section of PA1 is for operators to demonstrate their knowledge of environmental and wildlife consideration, Chris explained. Prior to an application taking place it is the operators responsibility to carry out an environmental assessment risk including type and formulation of the pesticide, method of application, buffer zone requirements, wind speed and direction. These are some of the key factors that need to be considered to minimise the risks to the environment, he commented. Operators must ensure that there is no off-target contamination and that risks such as waterways, hedgerows, people or animals are taken into account. Theres a big focus on water pollution, he continued. The student has to understand that even minute amounts of pesticide will make water unsafe to drink and harmful to wildlife; even a container foil seal can pollute several hundred metres of a watercourse.
Operators must make sure that at every stage of pesticide use: storage, mixing, application, cleaning and disposal, that they do not cause contamination of water. Remember the person who pollutes pays. *As far as assessment pricing is concerned, Chris said that each centre sets its own PA assessment fees, and they do vary from region to region. Potential candidates can access their local centre via the City & Guilds NPTC website (see on page 11) and find out the fees charged. There is a small difference in cost between the Grandfather Rights replacement assessment, compared with PA1 and PA2.