Time, wear and tear, lack of maintenance... it’s so easy for something to go wrong! And when it comes to pesticide application equipment (PAE), leakage or improper dosing poses a threat to human health and to the environment. Soon, these risks will be evaluated for all equipment. Optimised preventive measures such as new technical inspections may then be made mandatory in Belgium.
Just like cars, a sprayer or any other PAE item must undergo technical inspections to detect any defects or malfunctions. In the absence of inspections, a car may break down or cause an accident. When it comes to PAE, the risk concerns operators’ safety, their health and that of consumers and the environment, as pesticides application doses could be affected by any problem.
Risk depends on two main factors: the hazard impact severity for an exposed subject and the likelihood of occurrence of the impact. In this case, it is calculated on the basis of PAE technical defects, their probabilities of occurrence, and the severity of their impacts on human health and the environment. In order to assess this risk on a national scale, a study of the level of use of each PAE item is included in the risk study.
Decisions concerning the technical inspection of a piece of equipment must be based on a sound risk assessment (RA). For this reason, an RA protocol that applies to all PAE has been developed by a Walloon (CRA-W) and Flemish (ILVO) partnership in a federal dual project named SIRA-APESTICON. For each type of PAE, the risks are assessed – both before and after the technical inspection. An observed reduction in risk between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ situations could justify making such a technical inspection compulsory.
To our knowledge, the RA protocol developed in this project is the most comprehensive existing method in the context of technical inspection for PAE. It targets all types of PAE used in Belgium: a total of 23 types are listed. Of these, four are currently inspected: field crop sprayers, arboriculture sprayers, greenhouse sprayers and disinfection equipment. Some types may ultimately be exempted from mandatory inspection on the completion of the RA. For the others, new inspection protocols will be developed that reflect the predicted risks. In particular, thanks to this project, Belgium will be among the first countries to comply with EU Directive 2009/128/EC on sustainable use of pesticides.