How to Properly Transport and Store Pesticides

Josh McGillCEU

By Lourdes C. Pérez Cordero
Editor’s note: This article grants one continuing education unit (CEU) in the Core category toward the renewal of a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services restricted-use pesticide license when the accompanying test is submitted and approved.
Proper storage of agricultural pesticides
Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

Pesticides can often pose a threat to the health and safety of people, wildlife and the environment if they are not handled properly. It is important to practice good pesticide safety while transporting and storing potentially hazardous materials in order to reduce risks.

Chemicals are transported frequently from manufacturers to distributors and applicators. Exercising caution while loading and transporting pesticides can help workers prevent accidents or respond correctly to one. Be aware that carrying these potentially hazardous materials can add another layer of danger to a car crash or a spill. The safety guidelines discussed in this article could prevent injuries or even save a life.

Pesticides should never be transported inside the cab of a truck to avoid chemicals spilling inside the vehicle. Accidents and leaks can cause harmful vapors to accumulate and harm the driver and passengers. This also helps prevent the spilled contents from coming in contact with people inside the vehicle. Since it’s difficult to completely decontaminate the inside of the vehicle after a spill or leak, the operator may be running the risk of long-term exposure if a spill happens in the vehicle.

If possible, transport pesticides enclosed in a locked compartment. While enclosed cargo boxes provide more security, they might not be as convenient. Another popular option is open steel truck beds. These make it easy to load and unload the cargo. However, additional security measures should be taken to minimize damage to the cargo. To eliminate the risk of theft, never leave the cargo unsupervised in an open truck bed. The containers should be strapped down safely while being transported in the cargo area to avoid movement during turns, sudden stops or collisions.

The cargo area should also be able to protect the containers from punctures or tears. By inspecting the truck bed before loading, you can ensure that the cargo area is free of objects that could cause damage. Additionally, the containers should never be stacked higher than the sides of the vehicle to prevent them from falling over. Do not allow people, pets or livestock to ride in the cargo area when pesticide containers are present.

Temperatures below 40 degrees and above 110 degrees are considered extreme. Exposing pesticides to extreme temperatures can destabilize some formulations or make them ineffective. Avoid exposing pesticides to high moisture levels as well. Make sure to place a waterproof cover over the cargo when working with paper or cardboard containers. This may also help reduce the temperature.

The vehicle operator and/or owner can be liable for injuries, structural damage or any type of environmental contamination caused by improper handling if safety measures are not followed. The operator must be trained in pesticide safety and basic emergency procedures. Special motor vehicle training or commercial driver licensing may also be required in some cases.

Make sure that all the corresponding product labels and safety data sheets are in the vehicle before departing. These documents contain all the information needed about each product, including storage requirements, human health and environmental hazards, personal protective equipment and emergency contacts.

Carrying a spill kit is recommended in case of an emergency. If working alone, make sure to have a cell phone to call for help when needed. Be aware of emergency facilities, such as hospitals, near your work location.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires the use of placards when transporting a certain quantity of hazardous materials. Make sure to ask your distributor if the chemicals you’re transporting require you to display placards on your vehicle. These may help first responders evaluate emergencies from a distance without exposing themselves.

You need a placard when a pesticide with a DOT poison label is being transported in containers over 119 gallons. If this is the case, you must also develop a security plan that includes a security check of employees who transport hazardous materials, protection against unauthorized access and a plan for travel routes. The Hazardous Materials Information Center can provide more information about the required use of placards and security plans.

Pesticide storage facilities keep products safe from extreme temperatures and moisture. They also protect people, animals, structures and the environment from possible spills and exposure. To minimize the risk of water contamination, buildings meant to store pesticides should never be built close to water sources such as streams or lakes.

Appropriately secured storage sites prevent theft and vandalism and restrict unauthorized access. Facilities should be kept locked. There must be visible signage that lets people know that pesticides are stored inside the facility. “No smoking” warning signs should also be posted outside. 

Your storage area should be well lit with spark-proof lighting fixtures and switches. It should be well ventilated and insulated or temperature-controlled. Handlers should read the labels to know the temperature limits of the stored products.

Excessive moisture can damage materials and the containers used to store pesticides. It can cause metals to rust, damage labels and even promote the slow release of some products depending on their formulations.

The floor must be sealed with cement, glazed ceramic, tile or no-wax sheet flooring. It should not have any cracks or be covered by any materials that can absorb spilled chemicals. The shelves should be made of materials that are easy to clean and non-absorbent. 

Only keep pesticide containers inside of this area. Do not bring food, drinks, tobacco, medications, veterinarian supplies or any other product that can be considered consumable into the pesticide storage area. This will help avoid accidental oral exposure to people and animals.

The labels of your products should be easily visible and legible. If labels are not in good condition, make sure you request a replacement label to avoid any confusion in the future. Switching material from its original container to another is illegal and can result in fatalities.

Frequent inspections of the storage site, floors, shelving and product containers are useful to make sure there are no leaks in the area or damage to equipment. This also helps ensure all materials are being stored safely.

Handlers and applicators must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when transporting, storing, handling or applying pesticides. Refer to the label of each product being used to know what minimum PPE is required. Remember that the PPE may be different when handling and applying the pesticides. Store PPE in a separate room from the pesticide storage area. Keep extra copies of product labels and safety data sheets.

Keep clay, pet litter, sand or activated charcoal, a shovel and heavy-duty plastic bags readily available to contain any spills or leaks. A labeled container with clean water for decontamination can also be helpful. A first-aid kit, an eye-wash station and a fire extinguisher for chemical fires should be accessible to employees in case of an emergency.

Keeping an updated inventory of products stored on site and records of usage can prevent you from forgetting what products you have stored. 

On page 72 of the book “Applying Pesticides Correctly” by F.M. Fishel, see “Appendix E. Pesticide Storage Checklist.” This will help you keep up with all the storage requirements. If you check “no” to any of the options listed on the checklist, make sure to add them to your safety practices and storage site.

Being aware and following good safety practices can be the difference between preventing an accident and responding to it. Be aware of the conditions of equipment and wear the minimum required PPE to lessen or eliminate the risk of exposure to yourself and others. Read all the product labels before handling, applying, transporting or storing any pesticides.

When transporting pesticides, inspect and secure your cargo. Do not leave it unsupervised. Make sure your storage site meets all the safety requirements and keep product labels clear and legible. In case of an emergency, don’t hesitate to use your first-aid kit or eye-wash station or call emergency personnel.

Sources: Applying Pesticides Correctly, 7th Edition by F. M. Fishel, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the National Pesticide Information Center

Lourdes Pérez Cordero is a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences agriculture and natural resources Extension agent for Highlands County in Sebring.

To request a hard copy of the article and test, or if you have questions regarding this article, test or CEUs, contact Lourdes Pérez Cordero at or call (863) 402-6540. Please allow two weeks to process your CEU request.

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