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FAQ Agricultural / Horticultural / Amenity Use of Pesticides

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Do I have to tell my neighbours if I am going to spray pesticides?

It is always good practice to warn people living or working nearby that you will be spraying pesticides. However, for a few pesticides, you must do this by law and this will be stated on the product label. By law, you must also warn people living or working nearby if you intend to carry out spraying from a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft. You should always follow the guidance in the Code of practice for using plant protection products.

Q2. What rules or regulations do farmers and other professional pesticide users have to follow when using pesticides?

Everyone who uses a pesticide must, amongst other things:

  • Take all reasonable precautions to protect human health and the environment;
  • Confine the application of the pesticide to the crops or area to be treated;
  • Ensure when using pesticides in certain specified areas, eg those used by the general public, that the amount of pesticide used and the frequency of use are as low as are reasonably practicable.

Anyone using a professional pesticide must either have a recognised specified certificate (previously known as a 'Certificate of Competence') included in the list on our website, or be working under the direct supervision, for the purposes of training, of someone who has such a certificate.

Further advice on how you can meet the requirements of the law is to be found in the Code of practice for using plant protection products published by Defra.

See also Question 5.

Q3. Do I have to have a licence to spray pesticides?

See Question 2.

Q4. What was the 'Grandfather Rights' exemption for spraying pesticides without a certificate of competence?

Under the previous UK legislation governing pesticide use, anyone who was born on or before 31 December 1964 who used plant protection products authorised for professional use on their own or their employer’s land (ie they were not engaged in providing a commercial service) were exempt from the requirement to hold a Certificate of Competence (commonly known as a spraying licence or a training certificate in the use of pesticides). They were still obliged to be suitably trained and competent for their job. This exemption was commonly known as “grandfather rights”.

Why were “grandfather rights” phased out?

The Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012 state that everyone who uses a plant protection product authorised for professional use must have a Specified Certificate.

When did the “grandfather rights” exemption finish?

The Regulations provided for the continuation of the “grandfather rights” exemption until 25 November 2015.

From 26 November 2015 everyone who uses a professional product, including those who previously relied on “grandfather rights”, has had to hold a Specified Certificate.

What is a specified certificate?

A Specified Certificate used to be called a Certificate of Competence.

We have published a list of specified certificates which includes Certificates of Competence issued before 26 November 2013, any other certificates issued before 26 November 2013 which we recognise as valid and all accredited certificates issued after 26 November 2013.

I previously relied on “grandfather rights” How do I get a specified certificate?

Specific training/certification arrangements have been made for those who have relied on “grandfather rights”. City and Guilds Land Based Services has developed a new Level 2 Award in the “Safe Use of Pesticides, replacing Grandfather Rights”.

Alternatively, you can obtain one of the existing Level 2 Safe Use of Pesticide awards appropriate to the work and type of equipment you use. You must take this route if you intend to work as a contractor or apply plant protection products to land you or your employer do not own.

What is the new Level 2 Award in the “Safe Use of Pesticides, replacing Grandfather Rights”?

The new qualification will take account of the fact that people previously working under “grandfather rights” should already have some form of training and may have many years experience in working with pesticides. In recognition of this, the qualification has been developed so as to take significantly less time, and cost less, than the existing Level 2 qualifications for pesticide users.

The training will be based on a workbook, setting out the required knowledge, which can be studied at the candidate’s convenience. This will be followed up with a practical assessment of competence. As with all Level 2 pesticide awards, the training modules will be based on the type of equipment to be used. The assessment should generally be possible at the candidate’s premises, an assessment centre or at an alternative suitable venue.

Where do I get further information on the Level 2 Award in the “Safe Use of Pesticides, replacing Grandfather Rights”?

Full details are available on The City & Guilds site.

Q5. Who runs training courses for specified certificates?

Specified certificates, previously known as certificates of competence, for using pesticides are issued by the awarding bodies included in the list on our website. They can tell you who provides training in your area.

Q6. I want to carry out aerial spraying. What do I need to do?

Aerial spraying is prohibited unless the operator holds a permit issued by the Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD) for spray operations carried out in accordance with an approved Application Plan. Those applying pesticides from an aircraft or those responsible for such operations are required to follow the requirements set out in Regulations 15 and 16 and Schedule 2 of the Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012. Detailed information is available on the Aerial Spraying Permit Arrangements page of the pesticides website.

Q7. How do I dispose of my pesticides and containers?

You must not store or use a pesticide if it is no longer authorised.

You should always try to use up pesticides according to their label instructions. However, sometimes you may need to dispose of pesticides that you have stored. Section 5 of the 'Code of practice for using plant protection products' provides advice on how to dispose of pesticide containers and waste.

Q8. Can I use a professional product in a home or garden?

It may be possible for you to use a professional pesticide in what we would consider to be an 'amateur' situation (such as the home or garden or on an allotment). However, you will need to be able to answer 'yes' to the following questions which relate to the Plant Protection Products Regulations 2011 and the Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012:

  • will the conditions of authorisation of the pesticide be followed?
  • if a certificate of competence is needed, does the user have one?
  • will reasonable precautions such as those given in the Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products and the instructions on the product label be followed?

As each situation is different, you may wish to contact us to discuss your proposed use.

Q9. I am employed or self employed and use pesticides as part of my work. Can I use an amateur (home garden) product?

Yes. If you already use pesticides as part of a work activity then you should have undergone appropriate training in the use of pesticides and be able to undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to identify the risks associated with using the product. This applies to any situation in which you might wish to use an amateur product.

If the person using the amateur product as part of their work has not been trained then, as an employer, or self employed person you must undertake a risk assessment to identify people who might be harmed by the use of the product. This includes employees, other workers and members of the public. This assessment may identify the need for training to ensure the competence of the person using chemicals in areas accessed by the public to safeguard themselves and others.

If amateur products are to be used alongside professional products then a COSHH assessment may need to be undertaken.

However, note that Under the Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012 (PPP(SU) Regulations) products authorised for amateur (home garden) use do not require the user to be trained if used by Home Gardeners in the home garden.

Q10. Can an amateur (home garden) product be used outside the home garden, for example in areas generally accessed by the public, for example, cemeteries, parks and golf courses?

Pesticide products are expected to be used in accordance with their authorisation and therefore only used in the home garden. However this does not prevent the use of home garden products in other situations if all the conditions of that product's authorisation can be complied with.

Regulation 10 of the PPP (SUD) also states that if you use, cause or permit someone else to use any pesticide product (which would include an amateur product) then all reasonable precautions should be taken to protect people and the environment.

The use of chemicals, even those authorised for use in the home garden, if used in areas accessed by the public, may put other people at risk if they are not used correctly. Depending on the circumstances the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 or the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999may apply.

Q11. I am a volunteer worker. Do health and safety laws apply to me if I want to use an amateur (home garden) product?

Health and safety legislation does not, in general, impose duties upon someone who is not an employer, self employed or an employee. But if you are an employer or self employed you still have a duty to protect other people on the premises or land (including volunteer workers) from risks to their health and safety arising out of, or in connection with any work activities. Similarly, an organisation staffed entirely by volunteers (eg charities or not for profit organisations) still has duties under health and safety law if it takes on a responsibility not related to a domestic premises. A risk assessment will need to be undertaken and this may identify the need for training to ensure any volunteers using products in a public area are competent and can identify the risks involved.

Any preventative and protective measures should reflect the actual risks that employees and volunteers face in their respective roles. So a volunteer might reasonably expect similar protection to that of a paid worker undertaking the same type of activity.

Further information can be found on the HSE website.

Q12. Do I need the landowner's permission to use a pesticide on their land?

Yes. It is important that you obtain the permission of the landowner as under the law relating to pesticides they may be deemed liable to 'cause or permit' someone to use a pesticide product on land that they own. The land owner is also likely to have health and safety duties for those who use the land where they have control over it.

See the Health and safety made simple site.

Q13. What does the law say about storing plant protection products?

It is an offence to store a plant protection products that does not have a valid authorisation or cause or permit someone else to do so. In addition any professional user who stores plant protection products must ensure all reasonable precautions are taken to protect human health and the environment. This includes ensuring that stores are constructed and maintained to a certain standard. HSE's agriculture information sheet number 16 sets out the appropriate standards for fixed and mobile stores.

Further information is available in the Code of Practice for Safe Use of Plant Protection Products

Updated 2017-01-19