Chemical Management: Legal Booklet
This booklet is one in a series of eight legal booklets for farmers
- About the booklet
- Key terms, acronyms and abbreviations
- Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes
- Roles and responsibilities
- Legislation and the farmer
- Further information
About the booklet
This booklet is one of a series of eight covering legal aspects of managing a farm:
- Chemical Management
- Introduction to Occupational Health and Safety
- Livestock Management
- Noxious Weed and Pest Animal Management
- Soil Management
- Waste Management
- Water Management
Each booklet provides a list of the relevant legislative Acts and explains the purpose of each Act.
They have been written for land managers and primary producers. Each booklet consists of the following sections:
Key terms, acronyms and abbreviations – an explanation of some of the language and terms used throughout the booklet.
Introduction – a summary of the intention of the legislation.
Roles and responsibilities – an explanation of roles played by national, state and local governments, their agencies and farmers.
Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes – the relevant Acts, guidelines and Codes covering farm management in Victoria.
Legislation and the farmer – A table of potential situations with an explanation of a farmer’s obligations or the implications under the relevant Acts in Victoria.
Dangerous Goods – Substances or articles that are corrosive, flammable, explosive, spontaneously combustible, toxic, oxidising or water-reactive (and thus present an immediate hazard to people, property or the environment). Petrol, LPG, paints, pesticides and acids are examples of commonly used dangerous goods. The criteria used to determine whether substances are classified as Dangerous Goods are contained in the Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG Code) according to their common hazardous properties. The following are examples of active ingredients that are contained in agricultural chemical products which are Dangerous Goods: fenitrothion, dichlorvos, paraquat, carbaryl and phosphine. Dangerous Goods are classified on the basis of immediate physical or chemical effects – such as fire, explosion, corrosion and poisoning – on property, the environment or people.
Hazardous Substances – Substances that, following exposure, can have an adverse effect on health. Examples of Hazardous Substances include poisons, substances that cause burns or skin and eye irritation, and substances that may cause cancer. Hazardous substances are classified only on the basis of health effects, both immediate and long-term. They are covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007. Many substances are both hazardous substances and dangerous goods, and in these cases, both sets of laws will apply.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) – A document that describes the chemical and physical properties of a material and provides advice on its safe storage, handling and use. It includes details of health and physicochemical hazards, exposure controls, personal protective equipment, safe handling and storage instructions, emergency procedures and disposal advice.
Maximum residue limit (MRL) – The maximum level of a chemical that is legally permitted to be present in food, and is generally expressed in milligrams of the chemical per kilograms of the food (mg/kg). This limit represents the level of residue that should not be exceeded if good agricultural practice is followed. MRLs are set by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
Acronyms / abbreviations
- Agricultural Chemical Control Areas
- Agricultural Chemical User Permit
- Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
- Commodity Vendor Declaration
- Department of Health
- Department of Primary Industries
- Department of Sustainability and Environment
- Environment Protection Authority
- Good Agricultural Practice
- Maximum residue limit
- Material Safety Data Sheet
- Occupational Health and Safety
- Withholding period
Agricultural and veterinary chemicals are used to protect crops, livestock and other animals and plants from unwanted weeds, pests and diseases. They include pesticides, such as insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, and veterinary medicines. Agricultural and veterinary chemicals help agricultural industries to be more productive, improve produce quality and be more competitive on world markets.
Land owners have a responsibility to manage chemicals on their property in a way that does not adversely affect their neighbours and to ensure produce is free from unacceptable chemical residues.
Legislation obligation and community concerns regarding the use of chemicals in the environment and in food put ever-increasing pressure on farmers to use chemicals safely and responsibly.
Using a product in accordance with the label instructions will ensure that agricultural produce meets domestic standards.
The Victorian control of use system has been designed to enhance Good Agricultural Practice (GAP). By monitoring compliance with the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992 and its associated regulations, Victoria can demonstrate responsible farm chemical use.
The main rules
- There are legislative restrictions regarding the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals and the supply and use of certain higher risk chemicals. Further, some registered chemicals are prohibited from use in certain circumstances, or may only be used by persons holding specific licences.
- Off-label use refers to situations when a chemical is used in a manner that is not specified on the chemical product label. In certain circumstances, the off-label use of a chemical may be allowed in Victoria, whilst in other circumstances this is illegal without a specific permit allowing that use.
- People in the business of commercially applying agricultural chemicals need to have a chemical use licence (e.g., Commercial Operators Licence (COL) for ground-based chemical applications, or a Pilot (Chemical Rating) Licence (PCRL) for when agricultural chemicals are applied by air).
- People who use higher risk agricultural chemical products need to hold an Agricultural Chemical User Permit (ACUP) or be working under a commercial or pilot licence.
- It is an offence under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992 to undertake agricultural spraying that results in damage or contamination to plants or stock outside the target area. Causing off-target spray drift which affects the environment, human health or worker safety may also be an offence under other Acts.
- Notification laws apply when spraying agricultural chemicals by air or mister within 200 metres of a school, hospital, aged-care service or children’s service such as a kindergarten or child-care centre.
- Restrictions apply to certain types of herbicides, their method of application and the periods in which certain chemicals can be applied in Agricultural Chemical Control Areas (ACCAs).
- It is compulsory to make and keep specific records of agricultural and veterinary chemical use.
Visit the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Chemical Use website, www.dpi.vic.gov.au/chemicaluse for more information.
Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes
Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992
Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Regulations 2007; and
Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) (Fertiliser) Regulations 2005.
The Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992 imposes controls in relation to the use and application of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, fertilisers, and stockfoods in Victoria.
The Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Regulations 2007 sets out the record-keeping requirements for agricultural and veterinary chemical users. They also impose further controls on veterinarians and mandate notification of spraying near sensitive areas.
There are various Orders created under the Act which place further controls over the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals in Victoria.
The content and labelling of fertilisers sold in Victoria is regulated under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) (Fertiliser) Regulations 2005.
Dangerous Goods Act 1985
Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Interim Regulations 2011
The Dangerous Goods Act regulates the manufacturing, storage, transfer, transport, sale, purchase and use of dangerous goods.
The Dangerous Goods Act seeks to ensure that adequate precautions are taken against any explosions, leakages or spillages of dangerous goods, and to allocate responsibilities to land owners and occupiers to ensure the health and safety of all persons.
WorkSafe regulates the storage and handling of dangerous goods under the Act and its Regulations. Certain types of work involve higher risk for workers and members of the public and there are specific requirements in dangerous goods laws that require occupiers of workplaces to notify WorkSafe about the quantities of dangerous goods they hold (where occupiers hold quantities that exceed those listed in Schedule 2 of the Regulations).
The Dangerous Goods legislation establishes nine classes of dangerous goods according to their common hazardous properties. A number of classes have sub-classes. The duties vary according to the class of goods and some exemptions apply if small amounts are handled.
The Interim Regulations will expire in December 2012. For further information, contact WorkSafe on 1800 136 089.
Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
This Act is designed to provide a safe working environment for workers and for people who visit premises where the presence of chemicals may present a risk to their health and safety. The Occupational Health and Safety Act and accompanying Regulations relate not only to 'dangerous' but also to ‘hazardous’ substances.
We note the Victorian government does not intend to adopt the proposed legislative changes for the national harmonisation of OHS law in their current form and therefore Victorian OHS law will continue to apply in the foreseeable future (although we note that the Victorian Government supports in principle a national harmonisation of workplace and safety laws and there may be changes to the law in the future).
Proposed Work Health and Safety Act
The Australian Government has identified OHS as a priority area for reform. One of the key elements of the OHS reform agenda is harmonisation – moving towards nationally consistent OHS laws.
Safe Work Australia is responsible for developing national model OHS legislation. The model legislation will consist of a principal OHS Act, supported by model regulations and model Codes of practice that can be readily adopted around Australia. This requires each state and territory to pass their own laws that mirror the model OHS laws. However, WorkSafe Victoria and the State Government have publicly stated that Victoria will not be adopting the national model workplace and safety laws in their current form. Therefore, the existing Victorian OHS laws and regulations continue to apply for the foreseeable future.
Other relevant legislation:
Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 and Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009
The Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 and Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009 came into effect on 1 January 2010.
The purpose of this Act is to promote and protect public health and wellbeing. Among other things, it provides a legislative scheme for the licensing of pest controllers and the use of pesticides other than for the purposes of horticulture, agriculture, water treatment, weed control or control of pest animals covered by the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994. The Public Health and Wellbeing Act, therefore, provides for domestic, commercial and industrial pest control licensing and makes it an offence to cause a nuisance which is dangerous to health or offensive.. The Department of Health (DoH) administers the legislation in co-operation with local councils.
Environment Protection Act 1970
Under the Environment Protection Act 1970, it is an offence to cause land, air, water or noise pollution from the use of chemicals. This affects disposal of unused chemicals and chemical containers. EPA administers the legislation in co-operation with local councils.
Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981
This legislation defines what drugs and poisons are, and places these substances in various schedules based on a number of factors. Licences and permits are issued under the Act that limit the manufacture, distribution and use of scheduled poisons to those people who are properly trained and equipped.
Roles and responsibilities
The management of chemicals on farm is a shared responsibility between all three levels of government (Australian, state and local governments) and land owners. The Australian Government regulates the registration and supply of the relevant chemicals while the states regulate the use of those chemicals.
The Victorian Government regulates the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals after the point of retail sale. The regulations cover basic training requirements for users; licensing of commercial pest control operators and ground and aerial spray operators; arrangements to enforce the safe use of chemicals, including regulating spray drift. DPI ensures that Victoria’s standards for chemical and pesticide use are implemented, and promotes their safe use through working with peak farming industry bodies and individual producers.
Under the Environment Protection Act 1970, it is an offence to cause land, air, water or noise pollution. This affects disposal of unused chemicals and chemical containers. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) administers the legislation in co-operation with local councils.
WorkSafe Victoria is responsible for enforcing Victoria’s occupational health and safety laws including the impact of workplace practices on the public (e.g. spray drift).
DoH and local councils are responsible for regulating spray drift where it may have an adverse impact on human health.
Land owners and land occupiers have a responsibility to manage chemicals on their property in a way that does not adversely affect their neighbours, to ensure the health and safety of employees and to ensure clean produce for consumers.
Legislation and the farmer
Key questions for farmers about chemical management
Consider the following questions. If you are unsure of the answers to these questions, look through the table on the following pages for more information or phone the DPI Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
Keeping track of chemicals
- Do you use and keep records of:
- All agricultural chemical products
- Prescription animal remedy medicines obtained from a veterinary practitioner, and for all veterinary chemicals with a withholding period (WHP)?
- How do you store your chemicals?
- Do you use horticultural by-products as stock feed?
- Do you add veterinary medicines in stock feed or water?
- Do you comply with your specific duties regarding the reduction of risk for the storage of Dangerous Goods and Hazardous Substances?
- Do you dispose of empty chemical containers through the drumMUSTER program?
- Do you maintain a register of current Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all products you use or store?
- Do you only buy, store and use chemicals on an as needed basis?
- Do you dispose of chemicals as soon as they become unwanted through the ChemClear program?
- If you have stored a product for an extended period of time, do you check to see if it is still allowed to be used?
How good are your practices?
- Do you always read and follow the product label or permit instructions in full before using any chemical product?
- Are you using the chemical in accordance with the product label or relevant permit instructions?
- Do you know which chemicals may be used off-label in certain circumstances and which must be used in strict accordance with the product label or permit instructions?
- Has your spraying equipment been recently calibrated?
- Does the storage and application of chemicals pose risks of pollution to water or the land? (See also Waste Management booklet)
- Are you ensuring that you do not cause off-target spray drift?
- Is your property within an Agricultural Chemical Control Area and are you observing its restrictions?
- As a person in charge of premises where Dangerous Goods are kept, do you take reasonable precautions against damage to property and injury to the public?
People on your farm
- If you have employees who use agricultural and veterinary chemicals, have they completed farm chemical use training? If so, do they hold any required licences or permits?
- If you have employees who use agricultural and veterinary chemicals, do you carry out a risk assessment for workplace health and safety purposes?
- Do you have workers who handle Hazardous Substances or Dangerous Goods and do they have access to the current MSDS for all products?
- Are visitors to your premises protected from the effects of Dangerous Goods?
- Do you abide by the duties of care towards visitors under occupational health and safety laws?
Farm activity or situation On-farm obligations or implications
|Permitted and prohibited chemical use||
|'Restricted use' chemicals||
|Agricultural chemical user permit (ACUP)||
|Withholding periods (WHPs)||
|Sale of contaminated produce||
|Administering a chemical to an animal||
|Transport, disposal, protective equipment||
|Dangerous Goods (continued)||
|Dangerous Goods and workers||
|Dangerous Goods and visitors||
|Hazardous Substances and workers||
|Hazardous Substances – specific duties of employers||
|Overlap between Dangerous Goods and Hazardous Substances||
|Chemicals and occupational health and safety||
|Occupational health and safety and visitors||
For up-to-date information on managing chemicals on farms in Victoria phone the DPI Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
National Chemical Information Gateway website
For information about chemicals used in Australia: www.deh.gov.au/chemicals-gateway
Safe Work Australia
For information on dangerous goods and hazardous substances: www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
Publications available include: National Standard for the Storage and Handling of Workplace Dangerous Goods National Code of Practice for the Storage and Handing of Dangerous Goods Hazardous Substances Information System: hsis.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/
1800 136 089
Department of Primary Industries website
For a range of useful information relating to chemical use on farms, visit the DPI Chemical Use website: www.dpi.vic.gov.au/chemicaluse
Publications available include:
- Record-keeping templates for agricultural and veterinary chemical use and for poison baiting
- A guide to using agricultural chemicals in Victoria
- A Guide to Victorian Fertilisers
- Educational videos on boom spray setup and spray drift management
To dispose of unwanted farm chemicals phone: 1800 008 182; Web: www.chemclear.com.au
To recycle clean chemical containers phone: (02) 6230 6712; Web: www.drummuster.com.au
AGVET Farm Chemical Users Course: www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agtrain
A course tailored to suit the needs of growers and other groups allied to agriculture. Any growers or other personnel involved in the handling or use of agricultural chemicals are encouraged to complete this course. It is also a compulsory pre-requisite for applying for an ACUP, required for the use of Schedule 7 and restricted chemicals and the purchase of 1080 baits.
Workplace managers (including owner-operators) must meet specific obligations if they transport, store or use hazardous substances. This course provides the required information and all the tools required to comply with these requirements, amongst others, and to have a much safer workplace. See also the the AgVet Chemical Users Course (which is a pre-requisite course requirement by DPI for issue of an ACUP, required for restricted use chemicals).
AusChem Victoria: www.auschemvic.org.au
AusChem Victoria provides high quality training in agricultural and veterinary chemical use. The Farm Chemical Users Course provides the level of training needed by producers to make sure that they understood the requirements to use agricultural and veterinary chemicals safely and effectively. The course also encourages people to think about using alternatives to chemicals in their production systems by taking a risk management approach. The course has become the industry standard for AgVet chemical training and provides the necessary outcomes for participation in most of the industry quality assurance programs including CattleCare, FlockCare, GrainCare, FreshCare and MilkCare.
ISBN 978-1-74264-494-3 (print)
ISBN 978-1-74264-495-0 (online)
This publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.
For more information about DPI go to www.dpi.vic.gov.au or phone the Customer Service Centre on 136186.