In your weed control article (HW, 16 March) you said quads can be used on footpaths for spraying, but I've been told we can't. What is the situation?

(Article referenced is Market report - Weed control")

A. It is true you can use vehicles on pavements for the purpose of pesticide application, although there are "buts".

Following a request from the Crop Protection Association, the Health & Safety Executive issued a statement in March last year outlining its view on what constitutes good practice using a vehicle such as an ATV, quad bike or mini-tractor on footpaths or in other public areas.

It says: "Employers of spraying contractors and sprayer operators have a duty of care to those who may be affected by their application of pesticides. Whether or not a particular method of application can be considered safe in terms of operator, public or environmental safety at any point of time should be considered in a site-specific risk assessment."

So far so good. Do the risk assessment.

The statement continues: "Applications should only be carried out by competent, trained (certificated) operators." That's what we would expect - that is the law.

Then it says: "Drivers/operators should not hold a spraying lance while riding on such a vehicle as two hands are generally needed for safe control, particularly where there is a risk of encountering people, animals, uneven surfaces or obstacles. The use of hand-held pesticide application equipment by the driver of a moving vehicle is not appropriate and does not represent good practice in applying pesticides. Hand lances may be attached to or carried on the vehicle, but should only be used when the vehicle is stationary and not in gear".

The statement has not changed the legal position on the use of hand lances, but simply sets out what is seen as good practice. The key requirement continues to be the use of a site-specific risk assessment to assess whether the measures you choose to take will reduce the risk to employees and others "so far is reasonably practicable" to meet the requirements of health and safety legislation.

In addition, however, you need to remember that Regulatory Update 42, issued at the end of last year by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate, confirms that blanket spraying is unlawful on hard surfaces. The update sets out new label requirements for herbicides that are approved for use on non-porous, hard surfaces.

The new "directions for use" wording on product labels, to which those applying herbicides are legally required to adhere, means that hard surfaces applications must be targeted. In other words you have to hit the weeds and not the spaces in between.

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Sally Drury has been reporting on product developments and testing kit for 29 years. The advice given in this helpline is independent.

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