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Guidelines on Occupational Safety and Health for Pest Control Operators

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
Occupational Health Service, Labour Department

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Safety and Health Hazards that Pest Control Operators are Exposed to
    1. Pesticide poisoning
      1. Routes of entry of pesticides into body
      2. Symptoms of poisoning
      3. Safe practice in using pesticides
    2. Other safety and health hazards
      1. Contraction of infectious diseases
      2. Pest attack
      3. Adverse working environment
      4. Manual handling operations
      5. Fire and explosion
    3. Legislation Related to the Use of Pesticide
    4. Further Information


This set of guidelines, designed for pest control workers, aims to enhance their awareness of safety and health hazards at work and advises them on precautionary measures so as to prevent any accidental poisoning or harm to health.

Pest control workers often have to apply pesticides in places like godowns, factories, food premises, offices, household units, parks etc. In the course of their work, they may be exposed to various safety and health hazards arising from:


1. Pesticide poisoning

Those pesticides as used by pest control workers are substances for repelling, killing or preventing pests. They destroy pests by restraining their central nervous system or circulatory system, or damaging their major organs. Therefore, pesticides are normally harmful to humans and animals alike.

Exposure to excessive pesticides may lead to acute poisoning, chronic poisoning or allergic reactions. Pesticides which cause irritation or corrosion can damage the eyes and skin directly.

1.1 Routes of entry of pesticides into body

1.1.1 Dermal exposure

Pesticides may be absorbed through intact or broken skin. Therefore, one should:

1.1.2 Oral exposure

Pesticides can enter the body through the digestive system. Thus,

1.1.3 Inhalation exposure

Volatile or aerosol pesticides can enter the body through the respiratory system. Therefore, one should:

1.2 Symptoms of poisoning

Symptoms depend on the toxicity of the pesticide as well as dose and mode of intake. Common symptoms include:

Severe cases may include the following symptoms:

1.3 Safe practice in using pesticides

1.3.1 Risk assessment

Unnecessarily using pesticides may increase the hazards to humans, animals and the environment. Consider other effective pest control measures before resorting to the use of pesticide. If no alternative is practicable, avoid causing damage to the environment or hazards to human and animal health when using pesticides.

Points to note when conducting risk assessment on the use of pesticides:

1.3.2 Precautionary and control measures

Selecting pesticides

Storing pesticides

Transporting pesticides

Diluting and preparing pesticides

Application of pesticide

Inform all those who may be affected by the application of pesticide of the work arrangements and the safety measures to be taken.

After application of pesticide

Disposal of pesticide containers and unused pesticides

Personal protection

Personal hygiene

First aid

2. Other safety and health hazards

2.1 Contraction of infectious diseases

Frequent visits to pest-infested places to perform their work render pest control workers more susceptible to pest-borne diseases. The excrement and urine from rodents and the excrement from fleas often carry viruses, bacteria as well as pathogens such as rickettsiae. Inhalation of dirt and dust containing flea and rodent excrement or exposure of wounds to such dirt and dust can cause illnesses. Flea, tick and mosquito bites also spread diseases.

Pest-borne diseases include Hantaan Fever, Murine Typhus, Boutonneuse Fever, Leptospirosis, Malaria and Dengue Fever, etc.

Precautionary and control measures

2.2 Pest attack

In the course of disinfestation, pest control workers are prone to being bitten by rodents and mosquitoes, or stung by wasps.

Precautionary and control measures

Attack by rodents - use long pliers to fetch rodents caught.

Attack by wasps - cover your whole body by wearing thick long-sleeved overalls, gloves and beekeeper's veil. People not taking part in the operation should stay away from the site under disinfestation or remain indoors.

Attack by mosquitoes - apply mosquito repellent on the skin.

2.3 Adverse working environment

Pest control workers often have to work in places of adverse environment. They have to work, for example, in slippery kitchens, damp back lanes, dingy and poorly ventilated godowns, workplaces full of odds and ends, and construction sites with uneven ground surface, etc. Working in these adverse environments increases the chance of workers getting hurt by slipping, bumping and spraining themselves, and contracting infectious diseases.

Precautionary and control measures

Before commencing work at a new site, the supervisor should assess the working environment in the first instance to see if there would be any safety or health hazards posed to the workers. He/She should then take appropriate measures to reduce the hazards, and inform the workers of those hazards and the arrangements made, e.g.

2.4 Manual handling operations

As pest control workers often have to carry a lot of equipment and pesticides to work in different places throughout the territory, it is inevitable that they frequently need to lift heavy objects. Workers' attention should therefore be drawn to the fact that they are liable to sustaining physical injury if the ways they adopt in manual handling operations are improper.

Risk factors contributing to greater chances of workers sustaining injury may include the following examples:

Precautionary and control measures

Before commencing a manual handling operation, assessment should be made to take into account all risk factors. Appropriate precautionary measures should be taken and the workers should be duly informed.

The precautionary measures may include:

2.5 Fire and explosion

Many pesticides need to be diluted with such inflammable liquids as petrol or kerosene, so they carry the risk of fire or explosion. Compressed aerosol pesticides in canned form also contain inflammable liquids and have the same kind of risk.

Precautionary and control measures


1. Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (Cap. 509)

1.1 Employer's Responsibility

The employer is responsible for ensuring the safety and health of his employees. He/She should adopt proper precautionary and control measures according to the actual need. The measures include:

1.2 Employee's Responsibility

The employee has the responsibility to cooperate with his employer in adhering to the safety working procedures as laid down by the latter and using all tools and personal protective equipment in the correct way, in order to protect the safety and health of his own self and the others.

2. Pesticides Ordinance (Cap. 133)

The Ordinance mainly regulates the import, production, preparation, distribution and sale of all pesticides. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will publish in each January and July the names of registered pesticides in the Gazette. The Ordinance also provides for the proper labelling of all pesticides for sale.

3. Dangerous Goods Ordinance (Cap. 295)

Some pesticides have been listed as dangerous goods whose quantity and location of storage are controlled by the Fire Services Department.

4. Waste Disposal Ordinance (Cap. 354)

Pesticides are chemical goods and their disposals are controlled by the Environmental Protection Department.


For further information or help, please contact:

Occupational Health Service, Labour Department

Address: 15th floor, Harbour Building, 38 Pier Road, Central, Hong Kong.

Telephone No.: 2852 4041

Fax No.: 2581 2049

Website: www.labour.gov.hk

E-mail Address: enquiry@labour.gov.hk

Pest Control Advisory Section, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

Address: 6/F Yung Fung Shee Memorial Centre, 79 Cha Kwo Ling Road, Kwun Tong, Kowloon

Telephone No.: 3188 2064

Fax No.: 2314 3413

Website: www.fehd.gov.hk

E-mail Address: enquiries@fehd.gov.hk

Pesticides Commonly Used in Hong Kong

  Chemical Classification Pesticides Formulations (Abbreviations) Specialties and Scope of Application Health Implications
1 Organophosphates Chlorpyrifos Emulsifiable concentrate (EC)
Capsule (CS)
Mainly prevent and kill such pests as cockroaches, mosquitoes and flies. Some chlorpyrifos formulations can prevent termites. It may enter the human body via the esophagus, airway and skin, reaching various organs and tissues. Degradable quickly inside the human body, it is excreted mainly through the kidney and partially through defecation. There will be no obvious accumulation inside the body. Toxication mainly affects the normal transmission of nerve cells, resulting in neurotic disorder.
2 DDVP Emulsifiable concentrate (EC) Can be used as contact or stomach poison. As the fumigation and penetration powers are much stronger, it is a powerful pesticide which can be used as an indoor fumigant to kill pests like mosquitoes, flies, fleas and cockroaches.
3 Carbamates Propoxur Emulsifiable concentrate (EC) Can be used as contact or stomach poison or fumigant. It is used mainly to control and eliminate urban pests such as cockroaches. Similar to organophosphorus, it mainly affects the normal transmission of nerve signals.
4 Bendiocarb Wettable powder (WP) Functions as a contact and stomach poison against most winged and crawling insects which are urban pest.
5 Synthetic-
Permethrin Emulsifiable concentrate (EC)
Aqueous solution (AS)
Used in the control of pests harmful to public health, industries and timber. It may enter the human body through the esophagus, airway and mucous membrane. If it goes into the blood via oral or nasal passage, the whole body (especially the internal organs such as the nervous system, liver and kidney) will be affected. In addition to feeling burnt, itchy and numb, mucous membrane in contact with the pesticide will also cause the nose to run and sneeze and even lead to contact dermatitis and allergic dermatitis.
6 Deltamethrin Emulsifiable concentrate (EC)
Suspension concentrate (SC)
Used in the control of pests such as cockroaches, mosquitoes and flies that threaten public health and stored products.
7 Bifenthrin Emulsifiable concentrate (EC) Effect is long lasting. The formulations currently available on the market are mainly for the control of timber pests such as termites and beetles. It can also be used to control public health pests in general.
8 Cypermethrin Emulsifiable concentrate (EC) Used in the prevention of public health and stored product pests such as cockroaches, mosquitoes and flies. Some Cypermethrin formulations can control termites and wood-boring insects.
9 Alpha-
Suspension concentrate (SC)
Wettable powder (WP)
10 Hydrazone Hydramethylnon Gel (GE)
Bait (RB)
Functions as a stomach poison. The formulations currently available on the market are mainly for control of cockroaches and ants. It may enter the human body via the esophagus. Degradable quickly inside the body, it is excreted mainly through excrements and urination. There will be no obvious accumulation inside the body. It is not a irritant to the skin.
11 Phenylpyrazoles Fipronil Emulsifiable concentrate (EC)
Gel (GE)
A stomach and contact poison. The gel is mainly used to control cockroaches. The emulsifiable concentrates currently available are mainly for the control of termites. It may enter the human body via the esophagus and skin, affecting the normal nerve signal transmission. It is, however, not a irritant to the skin. The pesticide is excreted from the body mainly through excrements as it can be degraded much quicker inside the body.
12 Inorganic Boric Acid Gel (GE) Functions as a stomach poison. The formulations currently available on the market are mainly for the prevention of cockroaches. Massive accumulation of boric acid in organs such as brain, liver and kidney weakens the body immunity, resulting in cerebral aedema as well as liver and kidney damage.
13 Anticoagulant Bromadiolone Bait (RB) Used in the elimination of rodents. It may damage the normal blood clotting mechanism and the percolation of blood capillary. Walls of the blood vessels will become fragile, resulting in vascular haemorrhage.
14 Brodifacoum Block bait
Bait (RB)
15 Coumatetralyl Dustable powder (DP)
Grain bait (AB)