Portable sprayers are frequently used by farmers and gardeners for a variety of precision applications including pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers. Portable sprayers are available in a variety of sizes and are typically hand-held tanks or backpack models ranging in capacity from about 1 to 6 gallons. Many of the chemicals being sprayed, even organic, can be hazardous to health, and overapplication can be costly and cause environmental damage. By following basic safety precautions and properly adjusting spray output, portable sprayers can be used with minimal risks.
Follow these general precautions before using a portable sprayer:
• Become familiar with proper equipment operation including pressurizing, nozzle adjustment and the spray wand.
• Inspect the tank, hose, wand and nozzles for signs of wear and damage.
• Pressurize the tank using clean water, and verify the proper operation while checking for any leaks.
• Test the sprayer application rate in a measured area to determine coverage.
Follow these general precautions when operating a portable sprayer:
• Follow the instructions on the labels for mixing and applying chemicals.
• Do not use flammable liquids in portable sprayers.
• Spray in calm conditions or when the wind is blowing in a safe direction to avoid drift-back onto people or adjacent objects.
• Point the spray wand in a safe direction, away from humans and animals.
• Relieve the tank pressure carefully to avoid accidental spray-back.
• Rinse the tank and all parts thoroughly after each use.
• Dispose of unused product according to directions and local regulations.
• Store the sprayer out of sunlight and out of reach of children.
Safe Use of Portable Sprayers
Safe, effective use of portable sprayers is dependent upon reading and following the operating instructions and applying the correct amount of product for the given task. The manufacturer-provided operator’s manual should always be read and followed before using portable sprayer equipment. Although many units appear similar, there may be safety and operation features unique to each brand or manufacturer. If the operator’s manual cannot be found, a replacement may be obtained by contacting the equipment manufacturer or a local dealer.
Wearing PPE While Using a Portable Sprayer
Personal Protective Equipment
Always use proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when dispensing chemicals from portable sprayers, and always read and follow Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and product labels. PPE and any clothing contaminated with chemicals should be disposed of properly or laundered separately from other garments. PPE recommendations include:
• Eye protection.
• Chemical-resistant gloves.
• Coveralls, and when necessary, a chemical-resistant suit.
• Unlined vinyl boots with the pants tucked into the boots.
• Respiratory protection.
• Agricultural Tailgate Safety Training: Pesticide Protective Equipment. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Extension, n.d.
• Agriculture and Natural Resources Environmental Health and Safety, Master Gardner Program: Backpack Pesticide Sprayer Safety.
Oakland, CA: University of California, 2007. safety.ucanr.org/files/3138.pdf
Reviewer: Kent McGuire, CFAES Safety and Health Coordinator, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering