Using insecticides safely

Organophosphates and carbamates (OPCs) are the active ingredients in some insecticides. They can be used to control a wide range of horticultural pests, but are toxic to people and the environment.

Find out the rules for the insecticides you use

Start by reading the product label for the insecticides you use. The label has important safety information and will tell you what active ingredients the product contains. If the active ingredient is listed below, click on it to learn about how to use your product safely.

While this guidance has not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe.

Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU. This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.

Health risks

Because of the toxicity of organophosphates and carbamates (OPCs), you should only use insecticides with OPCs if there are no safer alternatives available and as part of an integrated pest management system.

You can be poisoned if you are exposed to OPCs through inhalation, ingestion or absorption through the skin. OPCs affect the nervous system and symptoms can vary in severity from nausea or dizziness to unconsciousness or even heart failure. There is also growing evidence to suggest that frequent long-term exposure to low levels of organophosphates may result in impaired memory, irritability, speech difficulties and sleep disorders.

Environmental risks

OPCs can also harm the environment and are particularly toxic in the aquatic environment and to birds and bees.

To find all of the rules that apply to a substance, check the HSNO approval number (HSRXXXXX) for your product on the Environmental Protection Authority's hazardous substances controls database(external link)