Introduction: Most of the farmers encounter the similar problems such as low-financial capacity and lack of information to control over the pesticide hazards. This study highlights the importance of the approach of As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) solutions to control and reduce the identified health risks from the pesticide use. Objective: To evaluate the decision of ALARP solutions for the safe use of pesticide among the pesticide handlers. Methodology: This cross-sectional study was conducted among 85 pesticide handlers to evaluate the ALARP practical solutions. The solution shall consider the factors that could control and mitigate the health risks suitably and cost-effectively. Result and Discussion: Pesticide handlers were aware of the fact that using hazardous pesticides without appropriate control equipment is detrimental to their health. When ALARP solutions are considered, respondents prefer to utilize the control strategies that are less likely to incur costs. Among all, the practices of the safe system of work and administrative control are highly recommended to mitigate the potential health risks during mixing and loading, application, and drift control and decontamination. Conclusion: It is recommended to apply the ALARP solutions to control and mitigate the pesticide risks sustainable during mixing and loading, application, drift reduction and decontamination.
Keywords: ALARP solutions, pesticide health, pesticide safety, safety decision
Key message: This paper outlines the preferable ALARP solutions for the safe use of pesticide among the pesticide handlers, which seem different compared to the ALARP solutions recommended by the professional agricultural safety and health practitioners. It helps in letting the pesticide handlers understand the ALARP solutions implemented by the practitioners, at the same time, outlines the factors that pesticide handlers would consider, deciding the ALARP solutions to be used while handling pesticide on-site.
|How to cite this article:
How V, Abdullah K, Othman KB. Evaluate the decision of as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) solutions for the safe use of pesticide among the pesticide handlers, paddy farm, Tanjung Karang, Selangor. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2017;10:36-43
|How to cite this URL:
How V, Abdullah K, Othman KB. Evaluate the decision of as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) solutions for the safe use of pesticide among the pesticide handlers, paddy farm, Tanjung Karang, Selangor. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2017 [cited 2017 Jul 15];10:36-43. Available from: https://www.atmph.org/text.asp?2017/10/1/36/205539
To date, farmers are facing the challenges of fighting against bugs, crop diseases, and weeds that are known to be able to wipe out the entire crops and affect the stability of food supply as per demands. In order to increase the production yields to meet the world’s growing demand for food, farmers rely on pesticide in their routine pest controls activity. Throughout the crop’s growing season, a mixture of pesticides were widely used without proper control measure taken.
For decades, clinical and epidemiological studies have highlighted that farmworkers are facing risks of acute poisoning and long-term illness from the mixture of pesticide used for their agricultural activity.,, Despite knowing their toxicity, variety of pesticides are widely used in developing countries. Malaysia is one of the countries which rely mainly on the agricultural industry, but yet to have a comprehensive system for keeping track of the number and type of pesticide illnesses. The Pesticide Action Network Asia and The Pacific (PAN AP) believes that these large numbers are actually seriously underestimated.
As far as farming practices are concerned, like most commercial farms in Malaysia, the conventional farmers are relying heavily on the imported inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds. Even though efforts have been made to encourage farmers initiating the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) at the first place, traditional farmers have fewer incentives to implement GAP on their farms because of low-financial capacity as well as the lack of information on the scheme. This scenario has terrified the occupational health practitioners, particularly the farmers who handle the pesticide in their agricultural fields. They are facing challenging conditions of putting their health and safety at the edge while feeding the nation.
Past studies have been conducted to examine the attitudes and perceptions of pesticide use among farmers of the developing countries. Most of these studies suggested that pesticide handlers have a low awareness level of pesticide safety and are more preferable than administrative control measures to protect themselves against the hazards of the pesticide used in their routine activity.,, While the current situation has not permitted to transit the conventional farmers to organic farming, the “As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP)” solutions shall be implemented to control and reduce the identified health risks arising from the pesticide use.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994, the term “practicable” is in regard to the reduction of exposure to the lowest practicable level, which may depend on four (4) factors, (i) the severity of the hazards or risk in questions; (ii) the state of knowledge about the hazard or risk and any way of removing or mitigating the hazard or risk; (iii) the availability and suitability of ways to remove or mitigate the hazard or risk; and (iv) the cost of removing or mitigating the hazard or risk. In other words, the concepts of “ALARP Solutions” are the minimum standards that one should possibly meet in particular circumstances to ensure that the duty-holder’s health and safety are reasonably being taken into account. In this context, the “ALARP solution for safe use of pesticide” suggested herein is a work practice, a tool or facility that makes the pesticide handlers’ work easier by considering the most effective safety and health measure.
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the decision of ALARP solutions for the safe use of pesticide among the pesticide handlers and, at the same time, outline their practicable requirement to produce a sustainable and cost-effective pesticide usage environment based on the decision made.
|Materials and Methods|
This cross-sectional study was conducted among 85 pesticide handlers who worked in the rice-farming villages at Tanjung Karang. This small town located in the State of Selangor, Malaysia, is one of the main rice producing areas of Selangor. The study population was aged between 25 and 60 years, had at least 1 year work experience as pesticide handlers, and lived in the vicinity (within 2 km) of the rice-farming villages. In this study, pesticide handlers were those who mix, load, or apply pesticides or performed tasks that brought them into direct contact with pesticides in the agricultural activities.
A face-to-face interview with the questionnaire was conducted among the study respondents in Malaysian language, while gaining full support from the head of the village (Tok Sidang). The survey questionnaire compiled the selected items from the guidelines of “Practical Solutions for Pesticide Safety” (Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center) and “Guide to Safe and Effective Use of Pesticides for Crop Production” (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture).
The background of the pesticide usage was first surveyed to identify the pattern of pesticide handling among the study respondents, and then researcher showed different examples of practical solutions for the safe use of pesticide to the respondents. Then, each respondent was briefed on the concepts of “ALARP solutions” for the safe use of pesticide. The “Safe Use of Pesticide” was evaluated based on three (3) sections, (i) mixing and loading, (ii) pesticide application and drift reduction, and (iii) decontamination.
Respondents were then asked to evaluate the each suggestions items based on four (4) criteria, “control the severity of the hazards/risks,” “remove and/or mitigate the hazards/risk,” “suitable and appropriate,” and “cost effective.” In other words, respondents were asked to evaluate each selected item by considering the capability to control and mitigate the health risks arising from pesticide used suitably and by considering cost-effectiveness. The evaluation was based on the work experience of the respondents and solution practicability and its application to their work environment, culture, and practices.
[Table 1] reports the general pesticide usage among the pesticide handlers in this study. The result showed that the majority (64.7%) of respondents did not likely read the safety label on the pesticide containers. About 56.5% respondents claimed that they obtained the pesticides directly from pesticide shop and 36.5% had the pesticides supplied by the Department of Agriculture. At least 68.2% of respondents said that they mixed and loaded the pesticides near the paddy field, and they also preferred to wash (decontaminate) their spraying equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the furrow irrigation next to the field. When asked for the reason of not wearing PPE while handling pesticide, 85.9% claimed that the protective outfit was uncomfortable to combat against the hot and humid temperature as in Malaysia. In addition, respondents had different ways of disposing the empty pesticide container, such as 27.1% preferred open burning, 32.9% put in the trash, and 24.7% threw in the open field.
|Table 1: Overview of pesticide usage among pesticide handlers (N = 85)
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Considering the concentration and quantity of pesticides that pesticide handlers need to prepare for a day of spraying routine, mixing and loading is one of the most hazardous activities associated with normal pesticide use. [Table 2] summarizes the ALARP decision of mixing and loading among the pesticide handlers.
|Table 2: The ALARP decision of mixing and loading among the pesticide handlers (N = 85)
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|Figure 1: Spill containment tray
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|Figure 2: Pesticide trailer, mixing table attached
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|Figure 3: Splash shield
(Source of [Figure 1-Figure 3]: Practical Solutions for Pesticide Safety (2012))Click here to view
The result showed that respondents mostly referred to administrative control as the ALARP solutions, while considering the suitability, appropriateness, and cost-effectiveness of the control measures for mixing and loading activity such as “read the label before using any pesticide,” “check the safety precautions,” “mix the pesticide with water-soluble packaging,” and “use the measuring containers.” Nevertheless, the trend changed as the respondents claimed that the suggestion of safe systems of work and engineering control types of measures was likely to control and mitigate the severity of the hazards. For instance, most of the respondents agreed with “calibrate the pesticide spraying equipment before use,” “select mixing and loading station,” “mix pesticide on a metal surface,” “install spill containment tray,” and “install splash shield.” Meanwhile, the highly recommended practical solutions for mixing and loading activity that fulfilled the four criteria of ALARP manner were “mix the pesticide in a water-soluble packaging” and “use the measuring containers.”
Pesticide drift is one of the leading causes of overexposure for bystanders and agricultural workers. [Table 3] below summarizes the ALARP decision of applying pesticide and reducing spraying drift by the pesticide handlers.
|Table 3: The ALARP decision of pesticide application and drift reduction among the pesticide handlers (N = 85)
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The result showed that the most preferable solution (fulfill the four criteria of ALARP) to reduce the respondents from direct exposure to pesticide was “calibrate the spraying equipment every time when using.” At the same time, respondents referred that some of the solutions were able to control and minimize the severity of pesticide hazards but were not cost effective and were inappropriate to be applied on-site, such as “notify neighbors and all employees in the area before spray,” “be aware of the wind speed and direction, temperature, and inversions,” and “wear PPE while handling pesticide.”
Decontamination is necessary to prevent pesticide handlers, other agricultural employees, and families from being exposed. Pesticide residues are easily transferred and distributed. [Table 4] below summarizes the ALARP decision of PPE and spraying equipment decontamination by the pesticide handlers. The result shows that respondents are keen for decontamination solutions that are administrative control based, such as “maintenance of spraying equipment,” “ways of removing PPE to avoid cross-contamination,” and “using scrub brush and pressure washer for cleaning purposes.”
|Table 4: The ALARP decision of PPE and spraying equipment decontamination among the pesticide handlers (N = 85)
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|Figure 4: Rinsate containment system
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|Figure 5: Decontamination sink
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|Figure 6: Sloping cement decontaminate pad surface
(Source of [Figure 4-Figure 6]: Practical Solutions for Pesticide Safety (2012))Click here to view
This study highlights the situation in most of the developing countries, where the respondents’ pesticide safety perceptions do not match with their work experiences. As shown in [Table 1], respondents are generally lacking the knowledge on the concerns on the toxicity of pesticide residuals that drain into the environment and have equally poor personal protective mechanism regardless of the working experiences.
Mixing and loading is one of the most hazardous activities associated with normal pesticide use. Pesticide handlers can come into direct contact with pesticides through skin absorption and respiratory inhalation. This can increase the health risk of the pesticide handlers exposed to pesticide due to accidental release of concentrated quantities of pesticides at mixing and loading sites.,
In the current study, when asking the respondents to decide on the preferable control strategies for their pesticide exposure, it was found that they were aware of the hazards of the pesticides used and the necessary measures of minimizing the chances of direct exposure to the pesticide during mixing, loading, or spraying activity. For instance, most of the respondents agreed that the installation of spill containment tray and splash shield on the mixing table could help to mitigate and control the risks of direct contact with pesticide while mixing and loading; however, these control measures are deemed as not inappropriate to be used on-site and are affordable. In fact, they think that the most ALARP solutions for mixing and loading of pesticide are through administrative control measures on the installation of engineering control equipment due to costing and limited resources access.
While spraying pesticide on the farm, it is crucial to plan properly and work carefully to minimize the risk of off-target chemical drift. The latter can injure or damage plants, animals, the environment, or property, and even affect workers and community in the vicinity., Therefore, it is important to minimize the chances of pesticide drift caused by droplets, particles, or vapor during spraying activity
In the current study, lists of solutions were provided to the respondents to decide on the ALARP solutions in a sound manner. The result showed that respondents commonly agreed on the fact that calibrating the spraying equipment every time before spraying activity would control and mitigate the risks, and this solution was considered as cost-effective and appropriate. Other solution measures such as notifying the neighbor, wearing PPE, or checking on the temperature and wind speed were agreed as to able to mitigate the pesticide risks but were costly and time consuming. This is consistent with past study, which highlighted that standard and drift-mitigating nozzles should be installed in the spraying equipment to ensure that it is well calibrated and maintained before applying on the farm.
Decontamination and maintenance of pesticide application equipment is another important step to reduce the chances of pesticides’ cross-contamination in the community. In view of this, clothes that are contaminated by pesticides should be washed separately from the household laundry. Study further suggested that the pesticides’ residues may still be present in recycled solvents and can be transferred from one item to another or from one load to subsequent loads of dry cleaning.
In this study, instead of choosing an installation decontamination facility on-site, such as laundry services, private shower, or the Rinsate containment system, respondents were keen for administrative and housekeeping practices. Respondents showed positive response when asked to use a scrub brush and a pressure washer for cleaning purposes. This solution is consistent with the previous study, which claimed that the appropriate decontamination manner is to use a full washer of water for a limited number of garments to increase residue removal.
Pesticide safety is a common problem requiring the attention of the pesticide handler to ensure that the potential health risks can be addressed effectively. In order to ensure the continual improvement and sustainable development of pesticide’s control strategy, the ALARP solutions should be considered, while using pesticides in all phases [Figure 7]. On a long-term basis, it is advisable to use an appropriate technology, which is locally adaptable, eco-friendly, resource efficient, and culturally suitable for the pesticide handlers.
|Figure 7: Conceptual of implementing the ALARP solutions for pesticide safety measures
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This study suggests that pesticide handlers are aware that the combination of using hazardous pesticides and lacking the appropriate control equipment is detrimental to their health. However, when ALARP solutions are taken into account, pesticide handlers prefer to utilize the control strategies that are less likely to incur costs. In view of this, the safe system of work and administrative control is highly recommended to mitigate the potential health risks during mixing and loading, application, drift control, and decontamination among the study population. Even so, pesticide handlers in this study agree that one should consider applying the ALARP solutions to control and mitigate the pesticide risks sustainable during mixing and loading, application, drift reduction, and decontamination.
As in most of the developing countries, the present situation is widespread due to the inadequacy of resources to support the pesticide handlers’ initiative to reduce the potential and known health risks from the pesticides used. Therefore, this study recommends that the policy makers should either explore the necessary health and safety concerns by considering the ALARP sounds of control strategy or reduce the pesticides used by strategically referring to organic transition needs on the long-term basis. The implementation of these strategies would help to promote agricultural safety and health practices and, at the same time, enhance the economic security for people who struggling to feed the nation.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest:
There are no conflicts of interest.
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
[Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7]
[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]