Understanding pesticide labels

The highest risk for you as a user is not using a pesticide, or any chemical, as directed on the label. 

Always read the label instructions and use only as directed.

Pesticides are chemicals intended for preventing, destroying or controlling any pest – including unwanted species of plants, insects or animals. The term ‘pesticide’ can include products such as:

  • herbicides, e.g. weed sprays
  • insecticides and larvicides, e.g. insect sprays, repellents or baits
  • vertebrate pest products, e.g. baits, poisons or toxins
  • biocides, e.g. pool chemicals.

No matter which pesticide you use or where you use it, you should always read and understand the label instructions and use only as directed. Following the directions helps maximise the product’s effectiveness and minimises your risk of exposure to the chemical while helping protect people, animals, crops and the environment.

When using a pesticide, always remember:

  • if you can’t see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) or National Registration Authority (NRA) number on the label, it may not be registered and it could be dangerous – don’t use it
  • if the label has been damaged, search our PubCRIS database or talk to your supplier to find the safety and use directions
  • some of the label instructions are legally binding – this includes the booklet if provided
  • don’t use a product if you don’t understand the label.

Always seek assistance or a translation of a product’s label if you have any difficulties understanding it. Whether you’re unfamiliar with a term or symbol, you have reading or eyesight difficulties or if English isn’t your first language, seeking assistance from a workmate, friend, family member or your chemical supplier to understand the label is important to protect your health and safety.

Several labelling codes apply to pesticide products in Australia. Generally, pesticides supplied for large-scale use by farmers or pest control services provide more information on the label than those intended for use in the home and garden. As such, not every label you see will contain all aspects listed in the following pages.

Safety data sheets are a requirement under state and territory work health and safety legislation and are intended for use by businesses to assess the risks of almost all hazardous chemicals in the workplace, particularly related to safe handling and storage, managing spills, first aid and transport. They are not regulated by the APVMA.

APVMA labels are designed to provide information about safe use for the specific uses outlined on the label. If the label doesn’t specify a use, the APVMA has not considered the risks of using the product in that way, and the APVMA has not approved the use. This is true even if a product is similar to another product with that use on the label. This is because our risk assessments consider the specific use and formulation for that product, which can impact the safety instructions and use directions.

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