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How to work safely with liquid fertilizers

Liquid fertilizers
Written by Jaap Lubbersen | Last update: 22-6-2021

Liquid fertilizers offer many possibilities and advantages, but also bring along more risks and danger than solid fertilizers. Therefore, safety while working with liquid fertilizers is of great importance. When working with powder or granular solid fertilizers, there is hardly any risk of personal injury. This is different for liquid fertilizers. For some products, only one single drop of product on the skin or in the eyes can already have serious consequences. To be able to work safely with liquid fertilizers, it is therefore important that you take certain things into consideration. Our specialist will list the important things for you. 

PGS 31

When a company stores liquid fertilizers, it must comply with the guidelines of PGS 31. In the video below, these guidelines are explained by product specialist Jaap Lubbersen.

Tip: turn on subtitles

Types of liquid fertilizers

Liquid fertilizers can be divided into three types regarding hazardous aspects:
  • Neutral products: these products are harmless and will not cause direct injury if in contact with the skin or eyes. These products are therefore comparable to the solid fertilizers
  • Acidic products: all acidic products can be classified as dangerous and can cause immediate and serious injury if in contact with the skin or eyes.
  • Basic products: almost all basic products can be classified as dangerous and can cause immediate and serious injury if they come into contact with the skin or eyes.

There is no CLP icon on the packaging of neutral products. This is the case for acidic and basic products. It is indicated by the 'corrosive' hazard symbol (added below). Therefore, always consult the label of a liquid fertilizer before usage, so that you know what type of fertilizer you are dealing with. 

Warning symbol

If you have a liquid fertilizer installation, CLP pictograms must be present on bulk vessels and pipelines of the installation. Special adhesive labels are designed for this. In the video below, a more elaborate explanation is given by product specialist Jaap Lubbersen.

Tip: turn on subtitles

Knowledge of the products

Anyone who works with liquid fertilizers should be aware of the product’s characteristics. Lack of knowledge and failure to provide correct information can lead to poorly made decisions at the most crucial moments. The most important source of this information is the Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). These sheets contain information about the specific product consulted. How to make use of the product and what to do if the product comes into contact with skin or eyes are things discussed within the Safety Data Sheet.

Equipment condition

Another point of focus for working safely is the condition of the equipment. The quality of the installation is primarily determined by the quality of the materials used and the company that constructs the installation. Also, the grower is responsible for the installation, meaning a good condition of the installation must be ensured, to prevent accidents from happening. 

  • Fertilizer storage and installations shall be stored in a separate room that is not accessible to unauthorized persons. 
  • The installation must always be surrounded by running water and an eye wash.
  • The dripping tray should be used for emergencies, not as a storage place for materials.

  • If the coupling points for the unloading hose of the road tanker are mounted below a bend, these coupling points should be provided with an additional support.
  • Keep the installation clean and dry. Like this, any defects or leaks can then be detected immediately. The tanks must also be cleaned from the inside after a while.
  • Ensure timely maintenance and regular inspections by an expert. If a defect is detected, it must be repaired immediately in a professional manner. The report of an expert mechanic also indicates which actions must be taken to fix visible and invisible defects. 
  • Materials subject to ageing must be replaced in time. 
  • Pipes and tanks that come into contact with nitric acid age faster and should therefore be replaced sooner (noticeable by white discolouring). 
  • Filling lines and coupling points installed outdoors and exposed to direct sunlight are often highly discoloured (white). These parts should be replaced as soon as possible. 

Unloading and storage
  • While unloading into storing tanks, no person can be in the immediate environment.
  • To prevent accidental contamination, you can choose to secure your unloading points of a fluid fertilizer installation with a key valve. Watch the video below for more information.

Tip: turn on subtitles

Acting in case of contact

If the recommendations regarding personal protection equipment are interpreted correctly, risk of contact with the liquid fertilizers is minimal. If you do come into contact with liquid fertilizers, it is important that you act immediately to limit the consequences as much as possible:
  • Immediately remove any clothing spilled on. Thoroughly rinse the skin that has been in contact with water. Do this for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Use a shower rather than a spurt of water. If there is no clean water available, use ditch water or any other source containing water.
  • In case of contact with the mouth: rinse mouth thoroughly with plenty of water. Then consult a doctor.
  • In case of contact with eyes: rinse with plenty of water (with eye wash or eyewash bottle). Consult a doctor.
  • Always consult a doctor if you have any doubts when you’ve come into contact with concentrated liquid fertilizer. Try to find out what substance has affected you or the victim.
  • Show the Safety Data Sheet of the fertilizer applicable to the doctor, so that he or she knows how to proceed the treatment.

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Any questions about working safely with liquid fertilizers? 

Do you have any questions about crop care, or do you want personal advice? Contact one of our product specialists, or use the form below.

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Jaap Lubbersen About Jaap Lubbersen

Jaap Lubbersen is an internal crop care product specialist at Royal Brinkman and has had over 13 years of experience in glass horticulture. "As an internal product specialist, I deal with growers' issues on a daily basis. Every time again it is a challenge to seek the proper solution, in cooperation with the grower, whether it is about healthy and vibrant cultivation, legislation or safety."

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