Approved Code of Practice

One of the questions I always ask my classes when instructing on Pesticides is 'What is the difference between a LAW and a CODE OF PRACTICE??

There is almost always some confusion!!

Basically the answer is that a Law has been enacted through Parliament and if the terms of the law are not carried out the person 'breaks the law' and can be penalised by fines or imprisonment - the extent of the penalty depending on the particular legislation.

A Code of Practice on the other hand gives practical advice on how to comply with the law. If you follow the advice you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law in respect for the specific matters on which the code of practice gives advice. In the event of your being brought to court following an accident or complaint, the COP will be used in evidence against you, by proving that as you had not complied, you are not competent!!

There are two types of Codes of Practice, an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) or just a plain Code of Practice (COP). Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, an Approved Code of Practice has special legal status and if you are prosecuted for breach of Health & Safety Law you will have to prove that you complied with the ACOP or the Court will conclude the accident was your fault.. A plain Code of Practice is similar but does not have the weight of law behind it and in a court may 'go against you' if you are prosecuted.

Most of the Statutory legislation in Health & Safety and the Environment uses the phrases ' reasonably practicable' or 'reasonable precautions'. The Approved Code of Practice basically details what is reasonable in the eyes of the law!!

So, why am I going on about this. The reason is there that there is a 'Code of practice for using plant protection products in Scotland' which came into effect on 2006. There is a similar Code of Practice for England & Wales

The good news is that it can be downloaded from the web FREE of charge - see below!! - ah, coming from the 'Kingdom of Fife', it does my heart good to get things free!!!!!

Everyone who is involved in Pesticide usage must read this manual. It is a combined code , a COP under the Food & Environment Act 1985 and an ACOP under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974

So, what is different?

The basic differences are those brought in to comply and reflect the updating of the Health & Safety Legislation and the Environment Legislation. If you have been keeping yourself updated I don't think any of it will come as a surprise.


All users must have considered and prepared for emergencies


All users are now expected to have attended a course of adequate instruction and guidance and be competent . This means that Managers and Supervisors who in the past have not thought they had to be qualified must now show competence.

There is a paragraph in the COP which reads ' Even if a certificate of competence is not formally required, users are advised to obtain one as evidence that they have undertaken appropriate training'.


The COP begins to stress the importance of Integrated Crop Management and Integrated Pest Management.- that is the minimising of risks to the food and the environment through limiting the amount of pesticide applied by controlling the pests in other ways - from hand weeding to control of pH etc.

Also mentioned here is DRIFT. The COP requires that the application of pesticides must be confined to the land, crop, structure material or other area to be treated. The COP gives many suggestions on how to avoid and control drift.


The importance of understanding the product label is also stressed - the changes of the last four years now being cascaded down to the operator - importance of application rates, number of applications per annum, specified crop, specified pest, hazard signs, risks to user, consumer, general public and environment, medical advice and emergency actions.


It now details clearly how to carry out a COSHH Assessment, choice and suitability of PPE, the use and maintenance of all equipment, signs and warnings, storage & transportation (it includes a copy of Guidance Note AS16), and of course disposal.


The importance of these and the things to be considered in them are discussed


The planning of pesticide application must now take into account what could go wrong and the things you should have available and the training required by you operators.


This details if these are required and the records to be kept to meet your statutory obligations.

This can only be a brief overview of the Code of Practice. Please download your copy, read it and begin to put its ideas into practice - it's only common sense!!

ACOP Application of pesticides - Scotland

ACOP Application of Pesticides - England, Wales & Northern Ireland