The Safe Use of Pesticides: A Risk Assessment Procedure for the Enhancement of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Management

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jan 23;16(3):310. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16030310.


The attention paid to the use of pesticides has increased notably in recent years as demonstrated by the issue of laws and regulations requiring their safe and environmentally-conscious use (e.g. Directive 2009/128/EC and Regulation (EC) no. 1272/2008). Despite the benefits that can be achieved by pursuing the targets of stricter legislative framework, the difficulties for farmers in complying with it are remarkable, especially for small-sized companies. In fact, in contrast to other occupational health and safety (OHS) contexts, in the case of pesticides even a preliminary analysis on the relationship between pesticide use and the consequent exposure risks for the workers is a complex task. In order to reduce the above-mentioned gap, the present study is focused on the development of an easy-to-use tool for carrying out occupational risk assessment of agricultural activities related to the use of pesticides. The procedure was developed by starting from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) approach and its improvements, and continuing to the thorough development of a tool for preliminary risk assessment, providing a simplified model for its practical application by farmers. A case study concerning olive cultivation was used for its first verification. The results achieved should be considered as an initial step for the promotion of safer practices when using pesticides, providing a consistent base for their further validation.

Keywords: chemical risks; occupational exposure; occupational health and safety; occupational risk management; olive orchards; pesticides; risk assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods
  • Agriculture / standards
  • Farmers
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Health* / standards
  • Olea / growth & development
  • Pesticides* / adverse effects
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Safety Management / methods*
  • Safety Management / standards


  • Pesticides