Compulsory pesticides training: you must also maintain your competency

Pesticides can be dangerous if incorrectly applied or managed. Training in their correct use helps prevent mistakes being made and enables those who use pesticides in the course of their work to minimise the risk to themselves, their families, the community, trade and the environment.

Training in pesticide use is required under the Pesticides Regulation 2017. If you use pesticides as part of your work, you must 

  • complete initial accreditation training
  • maintain your competency in the use of pesticides by
    • renewing your training every 5 years by completing a short refresher course or
    • participating in a quality assurance (QA) or stewardship program that has been approved by the EPA

See the list of quality assurance or stewardship programs the EPA is proposing to approve below.

Comments are open until 15 December 2017.

You must be trained in pesticide use if your work involves using pesticides. This includes the use of

  • herbicides
  • insecticides
  • fungicides
  • bactericides
  • baits
  • lures
  • rodenticides (rat poison)

Some occupations that use pesticides include

  • farmers, market gardeners, flower growers, , landscape gardeners, nursery operators, other occupations selling produce or livestock commercially
  • parkland or green keepers
  • ground rig operators
  • wood preservation operators
  • landlords
  • those using pesticides on behalf of a local council or government agency

If you are a pest management technician, fumigator, ground sprayer or aerial applicator licensed under the Pesticides Act 1999, these training requirements do not apply to you. There are other qualification requirements that apply to licensed pesticide users.

Mixing pesticides for application by someone else

You must be trained if

  • you mix pesticides for use, for example, adding water to concentrate
  • you calibrate equipment used to apply a pesticide

even if someone else applies the pesticide

Relevant occupations include loader-mixers involved in the aerial pesticide application industry.

Loader/mixers for aerial operations

If you use pesticides working as a loader or mixer supporting aerial pesticide applications you must have a certificate of completion for the Spraysafe Loader/Mixer Program issued by the Aerial Application Association of Australia

You do not need to do training for loader-mixer works involved in the aerial pesticide application industry if you have completed Spraysafe loader mixer training.

Using pesticides on livestock and domestic animals 

You need training if

You do not need to be trained if you only treat livestock with internal parasite treatments (drenching) or with external parasite treatments such as backline products that do not require dilution or mixing with water. These parasite treatments are regarded as stock medicines.

Vets needing training should contact training providers in their area to discuss undertaking a skills accreditation course or an assessment course that tests on-job experience and prior learning.

Buying restricted chemical products

The Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) requires proof of training before you can buy some restricted chemical products. Contact the APVMA on (02) 6410 4701 for further information.

Volunteers

Volunteers normally must still be trained unless their work falls under the domestic like use exemption in which case they do not need training.

You do not need training if you

  • handle pesticides, for example, load them onto a vehicle
  • store pesticides
  • purchase pesticides, other than restricted chemical products

Available exemptions are

  • the domestic like use exemption
  • the occasional use exemption

Note that the EPA cannot grant individuals or other groups exemption from training.

Domestic like use exemption

You do not need to be trained if you only use small quantities of household pesticides as part of your business or at home, provided you do all the following

  • you only apply pesticides that are ordinarily used in the home or garden, and are widely available at shops such as supermarkets or hardware stores: these products contain label instructions for use by householders in domestic situations, for example, glyphosate products
  • you apply the pesticide by hand or by using hand-held equipment
  • if you use the pesticides outdoors, you use no more than 5 litres or kilograms of concentrate or 20 litres or kilograms of ready-to-use product
  • if you use the pesticides indoors, you use no more than 1 litre or kilogram of concentrate or 5 litres or kilograms of ready-to-use product

The hand-held applicator can be either hand-powered, for example, a trigger nozzle on a hose, or powered, for example, a hand applicator attached to a pump on the back of a truck, as long as the pesticide is distributed by hand, not applied by mechanical equipment such as a boom-spray on the back of a tractor.

Note this is not the case under the occasional use exemption where the equipment used must be hand-held and hand-powered.

The quantities specified in the domestic-like exemption for pesticide use outside and inside apply to each 'job' done. Examples include

  • spraying on two separate properties during a day is considered two jobs
  • if you started the spraying a property one day and finished it the next, it would be considered one job
  • if you were spraying weeds along a roadside the 'job' would be the complete job you set out to do in that day, and the exemption would not apply each time you stop to hand-spray a patch of weeds

Products purchased from rural produce stores are not automatically exempt. Exempt products include label instructions that permit use by householders in the house or garden. For this reason many insecticides and herbicides do not fall under this exemption. If you are unsure, check the label.

Occasional use exemption

You can apply pesticides occasionally as part of agricultural or forestry operations without training if you are directly supervised by a person who has been trained. 'Occasional' is defined as pesticide use on no more than 12 days in the previous 12 months.

For this exemption to apply

  • the person supervising you must be trained and hold a relevant qualification under the Pesticides Regulation 2017
  • the person supervising you must select the pesticide, prepare it for use, calibrate and test the equipment and instruct you in how to apply the pesticide
  • you must only apply the pesticide using hand-held and hand-powered equipment, for example, if you are using a backpack and hand applicator to spot-spray weeds

You must not regularly use pesticides as part of agricultural and forestry operations under this exemption.

There is a range of training for all types of pesticide users. You can

  • do a two-day course, including modules from the AHC Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package
  • demonstrate to a registered training organisation that you know how to use pesticides in your job or business

The EPA strongly encourages people who must be trained to seek training that is appropriate for their level of work and experience.

Competency levels

Competencies that must be obtained are listed in the current notice of approved units of competency (PDF 397KB), which was gazetted on 3 February 2017.

Competency level AQF2

The minimum level of competency in pesticide use required under the Pesticides Regulation 2017 is Australian Qualifications Framework Level 2 (AQF2).  This is for people applying pesticides under supervision.

For a training course to meet the requirements, it must train users in unit code AHCCHM201 - Apply chemicals under supervision. Earlier versions of this unit are also acceptable.

Competency level AQF3

If you are working as an unsupervised operator or independent business person, for example, a farmer, you need training in Australian Qualifications Framework Level 3 (AQF3).

For a training course to meet the requirements, it must train users in units

  • AHCCHM303 - Prepare and apply chemicals
  • AHCCHM304A - Transport and store chemicals

Major providers of chemical training have agreed to deem people with language or literacy difficulties competent at AQF2 if they can successfully demonstrate competence at that level.

Older competency units including those with a RTC prefix are still recognised.

The EPA does not approve any particular training provider or course. See where can I get information about trainers for contacts.

An authorised officer of the EPA may ask for proof of training at any time. Proof needed includes

  • a certificate or statement of attainment issued by the registered training organisation in accordance with the Australian Qualifications Framework, or
  • a card issued by the registered training organisation that proves these qualifications have been obtained, or
  • a card, issued by another body that has been approved by the EPA, that provides equivalent record of evidence to the above forms of proof – currently this applies to cards issued by SmartTrain, or
  • where you have not completed retraining in the past five years, proof that your pesticide use is covered by an EPA-approved QA or stewardship program, or
  • a permit or licence held by groups such as pest technicians and aerial applicators, who are subject to separate mandatory qualification requirements

Fees are set by the relevant training provider. The EPA is not involved in this process.

While there is currently no subsidy or relief for general pesticides users, if you are experienced in pesticides applications you may be able to undertake a shorter, and cheaper, assessment of prior learning, rather than the full course. Contact the training providers in your local area for further information.

All pesticide users must maintain their competence in pesticide use due to significant ongoing developments in

  • the number of pesticides available
  • application technology
  • community expectations regarding pesticides management

If pesticides users' application skills are not periodically reassessed, some users could

  • develop poor practices
  • remain unaware of new techniques to manage pests
  • misapply pesticides, risking their health, the health of those around them, and the health of the environment

The two options for maintaining competence are to

  1. Attend a refresher course and be reassessed every 5 years, or
  2. Participate in an EPA-approved quality assurance or stewardship program

The Pesticides Regulation 2017 provides pesticide users with the ability to maintain their competence in pesticide use by participating in an EPA-approved quality assurance or stewardship program (EPA-approved program).

The Quality Assurance and Stewardship Program Approval Policy outlines the procedure for having a quality assurance or stewardship program approved, and the criteria the EPA uses to guide decision making with respect to the approval of programs against clause 31(1)(c) of the Regulation.

To be eligible for assessment programs must have appropriate content relating to pesticide use, systems to demonstrate participant compliance and accountable program governance arrangements. The criteria used to assess programs aims to ensure that by following the EPA-approved program’s requirements relating to pesticide use, its members will maintain knowledge and skills needed to comply with the requirements of the Act and the Regulation.

The EPA is proposing to approve these programs:

  • Cotton Australia’s MyBMP – for independently certified users only
  • Freshcare Food Safety & Quality
  • Global G.A.P. (Good Agricultural Practice) Integrated Farm Assurance - Crops Base and Livestock modules
  • Graincare
  • Livestock Production Assurance
  • National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme
  • SQF Code (Safe Quality Food) – modules 3, 5, 7 and 8

For pesticide users that are not members of an EPA-approved program, or who use pesticides for work or business not directly associated with the EPA-approved program, the requirement to complete retraining every five years will still apply. For example, if a person works for multiple organisations, and only one of these is a member of an EPA-approved program, the five yearly re-training requirement is still applicable for pesticide use outside that organisation.

 Approval will also not apply to use of fumigants due to the potential risks associated with their use.

 If you would like to comment on this approval please email chemicals.reform@epa.nsw.gov.au before COB 15 December 2017.

You risk a $500 fine if you are a pesticide user and

  • you cannot prove you have completed compulsory training in pesticides use
  • you have allowed your training to expire without been reaccredited, unless your pesticide use is covered by an EPA-approved QA or stewardship program

Penalties also apply if you

  • engage a person to apply pesticides who does not have the required training
  • misuse a training qualification
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