U of M Extension offers tips on managing agricultural PPE needs when supplies are short

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

Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service

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 medical care providers and first responders must be met. The following are some considerations for farmers, applicators or other agricultural professionals 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 eyewear 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 โ€” 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, people can always wear a higher level of protection.


Respirators: What are the options?

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. The following resources summarize the types of respirators needed for various activities:

With current demand being extremely high for N95 masks, masks that provide a higher filtering capacity such as 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 a local farm supply store or online options. Ensure all respiratory protection is marked National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approved with the filtering capacity it provides.

When a tight fit is required when wearing a respirator, a fit test is needed to ensure proper protection. For more information on fit testing and sites that offer this service to farmers in Minnesota, see respirator fit testing resources in Minnesota at .

What if the level of PPE needed canโ€™t be found?

Consider selecting an alternative product or method. Is there a less toxic product, for example, that requires a lower level of PPE? Product label databases such as , , or can help search pesticide labels for PPE requirements. Another possible option is to hire someone who has the proper PPE to do the needed task.

โ€œDo not skimp on PPE if you cannot find what is needed for a particular activity โ€” your health and safety depends on it,โ€ the release stated.

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