Check your sprayer

A well maintained, calibrated sprayer is a key component when following ‘Best Practice’ use of pesticides in amenity horticulture.

May 10, 2018
4 mins

Most operators appreciate that regular sprayer checks ensure pesticide products are applied efficiently which results in both cost savings and protection of the environment. These Guidance Notes are designed to assist users, managers and operators to ensure that equipment is wholly satisfactory for the job.

Operators and their managers often have questions about:

  • Legislation requirements for spraying equipment
  • What equipment should be checked and when?
  • Who should check?
  • What training is required?
  • How and what to record
  • What additional information is available?

These notes address these matters.

Legislation requirements for spraying equipment

The Code of Practice (CoP) provides detailed guidance on how to use pesticides safely. It should be read by all those who use pesticides professionally in all amenity areas.

These include Local Authorities, sport and leisure facilities, industrial and utility sites, highways, railways, airports and forestry. The CoP has a special position in law that means that if you follow the guidance in the code you will be doing enough to keep within the law.

In the CoP the various checks to carry out when working with pesticides are listed and for equipment clearly states: ‘Check equipment for applying pesticide to make sure it is in good working order and is working correctly and accurately’. Regular checks, calibration and maintenance of spraying equipment will help reduce the risks of pesticide exposure to the environment, operators and bystanders which are covered by legislation.

Plus there are cost/benefits to properly maintained equipment:

  • Optimise efficacy of pesticide use ensuring better and more consistent spray application
  • Minimise input costs by helping to ensure that the quantity of pesticide used is kept to a minimum necessary
  • Minimise input costs (~5%) by ensuring there are no leaks
  • Reduce risks to the operator
  • Reduce costly downtime by preventing breakdowns
  • Increase second hand value of equipment

Who should check?

The operator should have a clear job responsibility to routinely check their application equipment and either attend to the problem or report to their supervisor. Operators have to adhere to the Code of Practice (CoP) including the duty of care ‘to ensure equipment is calibrated and in good condition’. To comply with the CoP an operator must have the appropriate NPTC qualification for the equipment to be used.

First this requires the foundation module PA1 which tests the theory of pesticide application including legislation, interpretation of a product label, personal safety and contamination, container storage and disposals, record keeping and environmental safety.

This is followed with the PA6A for handheld sprayers and PA2A for mounted or trailed boom sprayers with hydraulic nozzles.

To meet the requirements for PA6A the operator must demonstrate competence to check the satisfactory condition of the applicator, prepare it for work, read and interpret the product label, calibrate the applicator and then mix/fill with the correct quantities for the specified area to be treated.

The requirements for PA2A are similar to that for handheld sprayers with the addition of attending to the preparation and safe driving of the ‘prime mover’ together with identification of the sprayer’s controls and components.

It is recommended that training should be recorded and is provided by a qualified instructor such as those accredited by Lantra Awards. For further information on training go to the Lantra Awards web site and NPTC at

How & what to record

Records of actions are important both from the point of accountability and useful routine maintenance. It is recommended that managers/operators prepare and use a simple record of checks to all sprayer equipment.

The key components of a check record:

  • Equipment identification
  • Date checked
  • Procedure
  • Location e.g. on-site, base
  • Parts required and fitted
  • Name and NPTC certification number

What equipment to check and when?

A wide range of types of spray equipment is needed in amenity areas to accommodate the specific areas of use. All sprayers should be checked on a regular basis; a useful guide is.

At the start or change of a programme:

  • Beginning of the season
  • Move to a different location
  • Changing product/rate
  • Repair or maintenance to sprayer