Inside pesticide inspections

Maintaining safe pesticide use and storage can reduce the stress of inspections by state pesticide regulators.


Chemical storage
Regular inspections by state pesticide applicators can be a source of unease but are better approached as an opportunity to learn and demonstrate that golf is a responsible user of products. Photo courtesy of the USGA Green Section

A visit from your state pesticide regulatory agency should be viewed as a routine obligation — and an opportunity — for most licensed pesticide applicators.

Chances are, if you have been a licensed pesticide applicator for a while now, you have been visited by your state pesticide regulatory agency. If you haven’t, then trust me: One will happen eventually.

An upcoming visit can cause some of us to become anxious and nervous, especially if it is your first time being inspected. For most golf course superintendents who are licensed applicators, there should be little to worry about, because the details of your pesticide programs will be in good order. But even that won’t eliminate all the unease about these visits, so hopefully this article will shed some light on what to expect during an inspection and the reason for the inspections.

Planning and preparing

Once one clears the hoops and hurdles it takes to become a licensed pesticide applicator, there will come a time when a phone call or email will come your way, and your state pesticide regulator will be on the other end. He or she will be trying to set up a time to come meet with you and conduct a routine pesticide applicator inspection.

These types of inspections are common and serve as a way for the inspector to review your pesticide application records, pesticide storage area, mixing and loading area, personal protective equipment (PPE), spray equipment, etc. However, these inspections also serve as a way for you, the applicator, to ask any questions that you may have.

Upon arrival, the inspector will meet you at your pro shop or your maintenance facility. They should always identify themselves and then go over what it is they are going to cover during the inspection. It isn’t uncommon for the inspector to have forms that they will fill out during the inspection. Although this might differ slightly from state to state, the inspector will typically then inspect the following items:

Pesticide application spray records

The inspector will be looking for what you applied, target crop/pest, date of application, etc. Most states require an applicator to maintain records for two years; however, some states may require longer. Your records can be maintained on a computer, in a notebook or however you deem necessary. The bottom line is, you must maintain records.

pesticide storage sign on black door
Pesticide inspectors will review many aspects of your operation, from application spray records and storage areas to personal protective equipment and spray equipment. Photo by stockphotofan1/

Pesticide storage area

An inspector will walk through your storage area and look at the various pesticides you have stored. It is not uncommon for them to review some products you have on hand and make sure they are labeled for your intended use. Additionally, an inspector will make sure that your pesticides are in their originally approved containers.

Mixing and loading area

During an inspection, it isn’t uncommon for an inspector to examine the area where you mix and load your chemicals. This is to ensure that you don’t have an area that leads to waterways and that you have backflows on your hose bibs.

Personal protective equipment

An inspector may ask you to see your PPE. This can be anything from gloves to a respirator. The PPE that you have on hand will be dictated by the pesticides that you have and that you use. If you have a pesticide on hand that requires a respirator, then you’re going to want to make sure that you have been fit tested.

Spray equipment

It isn’t uncommon for an inspector to look at the spray equipment you use during regular pesticide applications. Many times, they will look at the hoses, check to see if there is an air gap with a hose connection, etc.

In conclusion ...

A routine inspection shouldn’t be a source of anxiety; it should be looked at as an opportunity to learn. Be prepared to ask questions throughout the inspection. As a former pesticide inspector, I spent a good amount of time reassuring an applicator that everything was going to be OK. 

Sure, the time of the inspection will never be ideal, as you always have something that needs your attention on your course. However, taking the time to get to know your pesticide inspector could be of great benefit. After all, they are a good person to know when a regulatory question arises, and, trust me, they are good people to have in your corner.

Joshua Weaver, Ph.D., ( is lecturer in the Department of Horticulture at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. He is a current GCSAA grassroots ambassador and a former pesticide inspector with Clemson University’s Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Georgia Department of Agriculture.