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Pesticide Education for Professionals

Posted: June 19, 2014

Penn State Extension in Berks County prepared professional grounds managers for the pesticide certification exams.
Extension educator Scott Guiser demonstrates how to calibrate backpack sprayers and provides pointers about personal protective equipment for students attending the Pesticide Applicator Short Course.

Extension educator Scott Guiser demonstrates how to calibrate backpack sprayers and provides pointers about personal protective equipment for students attending the Pesticide Applicator Short Course.

Penn State Extension in Berks County participates in the presentation of the Pesticide Applicator Short Course, a four-day class to prepare professional grounds managers to take pesticide certification exams.

In Pennsylvania, commercial businesses and municipalities are required to certify and train employees responsible for pesticide applications. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture administers a certification program that includes written exams.

Penn State Extension educators identified a need for pre-exam training and offer two classes in southeast Pennsylvania each year. More than 500 local professionals have attended over the years with 70 students attending last year.

The class not only offers information for exam preparation, but it also provides in-depth information about personal safety, environmental implications of pesticide use, the importance of proper diagnosis in the management process and an emphasis on integrated pest management techniques.

We have been able to track the number of students who pass their exams and become certified applicators. For example, in 2011 85 percent of the students who took exams became certified, resulting in 62 new certified pesticide applicators.

In addition to certification, other positive outcomes result. We found through evaluation that participants felt qualified to properly apply pesticides after completing the course. Prior to attending class, many had applied pesticides, either at work or at home. We were surprised to learn how many were unaware of their unsafe practices.

Less than half of the class members wore chemical-resistant gloves and long-sleeved clothing (the minimum recommendations for protective equipment), read the label before using a pesticide, had a spill kit or containment plan in the case of an accident, locked their pesticide storage area, identified the pest problem before applying pesticides or calibrated sprayer equipment each year before use.

After attending the Pesticide Short Course, the majority of participants said they intended to change these pesticide safety practices.

Penn State Extension in Berks County recognizes the impact the Pesticide Applicator Short Course has for professional grounds managers. In their eyes, the preparation for the certification test is extremely valuable. Likewise, Penn State Extension’s research-based information on personal safety and standard procedure is an invaluable public service.