Gassing of Rabbits and Vertebrate Pests (HSE AIS22)

Gassing of rabbits and vertebrate pests

AIS 22

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This information sheet outlines the steps to be taken under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) (as amended) to assess the risks when using moisture-activated gassing compounds for vertebrate pest control in open areas and decide what precautions are necessary in your circumstances.

It does not cover the use of these compounds in buildings, ships or any other enclosed areas. If you carry out gassing work in such areas you should refer to HSEs booklet Fumigation: Health and safety guidance for employers and technicians carrying out fumigation operations.

Moisture-activated gassing compounds are pesticides and must only be used for the pest-control activities specified on the product container label. They are available as formulations of aluminium phosphide that, when activated by moisture, release the toxic gas phosphine.

Gassing operations must be carried out only by competent operators working in accordance with the instructions given on the product container label. See ‘Training’ for details of suitable training providers.

Do I need to use a moisture-activated gassing compound?

All moisture-activated gassing compounds are classified as very toxic chemicals and will expose operators to health risks. Before using these compounds you need to consider other methods of pest control or other pesticides which present a lower risk. For example:

It could be that a combination of these measures (including using gassing compounds) will produce the most effective results. If you decide to use a gassing compound, you need to compare the different types available and select the one that will achieve effective pest control with least risk to the operators and others, ie carry out an assessment. Factors to consider in your COSHH assessment include:

  • the nature of the compound, eg powder or pellets;
  • how it is to be handled, eg by spoon, pump, or pellet applicator;
  • steps to prevent exposure to operators, eg label instructions, training, personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • precautions to protect other people and non-target animals, eg warning signs, barriers etc;
  • steps to deal with an emergency, eg communications, first-aid training and equipment;
  • the system you will use to ensure control measures (such as PPE) and first-aid equipment remain in good working order or are replaced as necessary.

You must ensure that operators know what the risks are and how you propose to control them - write down the results of your assessment.

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