Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is necessary to protect farmers and other agricultural workers from pesticides, grain dust, mold and other hazards. The COVID- 19 global pandemic, however, has stressed the supplies of PPE since the emergency needs of our medical care providers and first responders must be met. The following are some considerations if you are a farmer, applicator or other agricultural professional facing a shortage of PPE.

What level of PPE do you need?

For pesticide applications, a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, shoes and socks are typically the minimum required PPE when mixing, loading and applying a product. Protective eye-wear including goggles or a face shield, chemical-resistant gloves, additional clothing such as a chemical resistant apron or coveralls and/or a respirator may also be listed on the label.

Always check the pesticide label for specific PPE requirements – the label lists what is required to lawfully use a particular product and restrictions exist for personal health and safety. Note, the label will list the minimum level of PPE required, you can always wear a higher level of protection.

Respirators are one of the PPE items most likely to be in short supply at this time.

They can be required for numerous agricultural activities, including when working with grain, livestock, hay, manure pits, silos and certain pesticides. 

With current demand being extremely high for N95 masks, masks that provide a higher filtering capacity (e.g. N99 or N100) may be easier to find, even if they might be more expensive. A half-mask respirator with a cartridge or a full-face respirator are options to consider as well and they may be easier to find since they are less likely to be used in the medical field. These can last a long time, but may be more uncomfortable, more costly and require more parts than a mask.

Check for availability through your local farm supply store or online options such as Gemplers, Grainger, PK Safety, Northern Safety & Industrial and Amazon. Ensure all respiratory protection is marked NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) approved with the filtering capacity it provides.

If you can’t find the level of PPE that’s required for your planned activity, consider selecting an alternative product or method. Another possible option is to hire someone who has the proper PPE.

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