PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – Why Worry about Protective Clothing?

Plant protection products are needed in many agricultural areas and beneficial to people when properly used.  However, misuse of plant protection products may be extremely dangerous as they are designed to be toxic to living organisms that we consider pests.  Regularly, incidents are reported of accidental poisoning of plant protection products applicators.  They paint an alarming picture of ignorance and carelessness in handling plant protection products.  This situation calls for stricter regulatory control and effective training of those handling plant protection products.

Plant protection products content of active ingredients, solvents, carriers and other inerts.  There are also variations in their formulations, such as powders, liquids, granulars and dry flowables.  All have varying degrees of toxicity, as indicated on the label.  Furthermore, these plant protection products are applied using a wide range of application equipment and spray volume.  As results of these varied plant protection products offerings and delivery methods, a growing concern in the agricultural industry continues for safe use and handling of these products.

There has been increasing interest and concern on the hazards of handing plant protection products by spray operators.  Such operators may be affected by plant protection products due to spillage of plant protection products solution from spray tanks, splash during mixing/loading process, dermal absorption from plant protection products-soaked work clothes and inhalation of fine droplets.  The hazards increase particularly during mixing and loading when protective clothing and equipment are not worn.  According to a survey, only about 50% of the estate workers in the plantations used some form of protective clothing.  The types of protective clothing used, in decreasing frequency were as follows: rubber boots, plastic legging, gloves, masks, respirators and plastic aprons.  Such heavy protective clothing is uncomfortable to wear in the hot climate and applicators are generally very reluctant to wear those clothing.  Rubber boots and gloves, facemasks and respirators soon become extremely irritating to wear, especially if the humidity is high.

The common symptoms of exposure to crop protection products are headache, giddiness, skin irritation, skin rashes, vomiting, nails effects, nose bleeding, and eye irritation. There are three ways that plant protection products may enter the human body to cause poisoning.

    1. Oral exposure – plant protection products enter the body through the month either accidentally or intentionally.
    2. Dermal exposure – plant protection products enter through absorption via the skin and eyes.
    3. Inhalation or respiratory exposure – absorption by breathing air borne droplets of plant protection products.


Some common exposure incidents include wearing contaminated work clothes, not wearing personal protective clothing, splashing plant protection products onto yourself, not washing your hands after handling plant protection products and entering sites immediately after treatment.  Wearing personal protective clothing greatly reduces the chances of being expose to plant protection products.

The purpose of wearing protective clothing is to protect the worker during application and other plant protection products handling such as opening of containers, mixing, refilling, measuring, loading, maintaining application equipment and cleaning of spillage.   The basic requirements of the protective clothing recommended by CropLife International are:

  • Protective against a range of plant protection products formulations
  • Durable
  • Good air exchange
  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Low cost


Due to hot and humid climates in Malaysia a one-piece garment without sleeves open at the sides is more commonly wear by worker especially during the application of plant protection products.  This garment has specific benefits of providing additional protection against leaking knapsack sprayers.  The type of clothing materials is important.  One of the suitable materials is spunbonded polypropylene with a polymer coating.  This material is lightweight for comfort and ease of movement.  It is also durable and resistant to abrasion, punctual and burst.  The polymer coating is air and water vapor permeable and water repellent. These barriers provide excellent protection from toxic dry particulates, biohazards, liquid chemical spills, and hazardous waste.

In the tropical and other hot countries present a particular challenge as it is not always feasible for operators to obtain specialized protective equipment, or, when available, it is not possible to wear because of the personal discomfort or distress caused by the hot and humid conditions. Therefore, it is important to come up with materials suitable to tropical conditions especially those certified by authorities like SIRIM.  More advice needs to be given to the spray operators so that they understand the protective clothing is to protect them from exposure to plant protection products.


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