Dean Bowden has been around agricultural chemicals most of his working life and still gets pumped about using them safely.
Thirty years ago, he was among the first couple of dozen spraying contractors to be registered with the New Zealand Agrichemical Education Trust (NZAET) which most of us know as Growsafe. The trust was formed in 1991 by primary producer groups to develop and maintain good practice standards of agrichemical use.
After running his own spraying business in the Wellington region, Dean joined Growsafe 17 years ago to become one of their trainers. Last year he took on the responsibility of promoting the new agrichemical standard NZS 8409:2021 and delivering the training to support it. Dean was a feature speaker at Rural Contractors NZ’s 2022 roadshows in 5 centres.

He says both agrichemical contractors and farmers alike need to get up to speed with the new standard’s changes and requirements.
“It brings us into line with a new globally harmonised system of how we treat, store and manage agrichemicals.”
There are now international changes in labels on containers to spell out what hazards are presented. Previously, agrichemicals that were toxic to humans were marked with a Hazard class 6 listed on the label. Under a hazardous substances table anything that was toxic to the environment was given a 9 rating.
“Very few people really had a clue what a class6meant,” he says. Now the label must spell out what harm the agrichemical could do.
There are also tougher requirements on the transport and storage of agrichemicals.
Any agrichemical being transported must be secured and some documentation needs to be carried to identify it. If you are storing more than 100 litres of any agrichemical, you need to have clear signage specifying the potential hazard such as fire. You also need to provide an inventory to your local fire brigade.
“We don’t want another Tamahere,” Dean warns. One fire fighter died and seven others were injured when 400 kg of propane-based refrigerant exploded at the Tamahere coolstore near Hamilton in April 2008. Two companies were later ordered to pay $393,000 in fines and reparation for health & safety breaches.
Dean says council air plans support NZS 8409 and require neighbours be notified if you are spraying within 50m of their boundary – with at least 12 hours notice. This can by done by a spraying contractor but the responsibility rests with the property owner.
The use of organophosphates is not banned by the new standard but Dean expects this will happen eventually because many overseas markets are demanding these chemicals not be used on anything consumed. Access to some chemicals such as paraquat are already more difficult under WorkSafe regulations which came into effect in2018.
Dean says the new globally harmonised system to manage agrichemicals is being phased in globally by 2025. While WorkSafe and other government agencies are allowing a period for people to come up to speed with the new requirements, he says now is the time to get on board.
Clinton Carroll, Rural Contractors NZ vice-president, sits on the Agrichemical Education Trust board and helped develop the new standard which he says was overdue.

He’s described it as the spray contractors bible and notes it’s available for free to those holding a current Growsafe certificate such as Registered Chemical Applicators (RCA) . Otherwise the cost $150.