The Lowdown on UK Pesticide Qualifications


The law states that anyone who uses or applies pesticides in Agriculture, Horticulture, and Forestry, Industry or Amenity workplaces must possess a valid Pesticide Certificate in order to comply with regulations. This is not optional and applies to all volunteers, employees and self-employed people who use or apply pesticides.  

Here is a simple run down on the pesticide qualifications you may need because the various pesticide application (PA) options can get a bit complicated.


PA1: Theory

PA1 is the Foundation Theory Module. This has to be passed first before any other pesticide qualification can be taken (similar to a driving theory test). In the theory test you will be assessed on your knowledge of basic legislation for pesticides.

The course objectives and assessments include the following subjects: understanding the law and help you become a safe and competent pesticide user, understand what pesticides are and what their uses are, interpret and use label information, learning how to safely store, transport and dispose of pesticides and containers and how to record information.

Once you have passed your PA1 you can then go on to obtain qualifications for any of the following courses.

PA2: Boom Sprayer

pesticide-spray-boomThe PA2 qualification is required for anyone wanting to operate mounted or trailed boom sprayers and most ‘weed wiper’ types of applicator. It is important that trainees can operate the boom sprayer vehicle (tractor or quad bike) before undergoing this qualification.





PA3: Variable Geometry

This qualification is typically used for orchards where you will learn to operate a Broadcast or Variable Geometry Boom Sprayers (mounted or trailed), with or without air assistance.

The qualification will teach you to prepare, calibrate, maintain and operate the sprayer safely without risk to the environment, yourself or others. You will also learn the correct procedure for cleaning personal protective and application equipment which may be contaminated with the pesticides.

PA4: Slug pellets – mounted or trailed

This is for anyone who wishes to use and apply slug pellets. Where you will learn to prepare, calibrate, maintain and operate the pesticide slug pellet applicator correctly without causing a risk to yourself, the environment and others.

Similarly to the Boom sprayer pesticide application it is important that you can operate the applicator vehicle before taking the qualification. This qualification does not include pedestrian controlled machines or hand-held equipment. For pedestrian controlled machines or hand held equipment you will need to take the PA6 pesticide qualification.

PA6: Handheld and knapsack

PA6 is required by anyone wishing to apply pesticides using a hand-held lance or knapsack type applicator. The lance may be vehicle-mounted on a tractor or ATV. If the lance is vehicle mounted, it is vital that you can operate the chosen vehicle prior to under-taking the PA6 course.

This course will teach you how to identify and describe how handheld applicators work, how to select nozzles, how to calibrate, mix and fill the applicators accurately and safely, and how to store and decontaminate your equipment.

The “Grandfather Rights”

Currently there is an exemption to the UK pesticide law, anyone born before 31st December 1964 can use Plant Protection Products (PPPs) authorised for professional use on land, produce, crops, materials and buildings, which are owned, occupied or rented by them or their employer, can use PPs without a Certificate of Competence. However, they do need to be suitably trained and competent with using the PPPs. The law regulations have allowed this exemption to continue until 26th November 2015, after this date everyone using PPPs for professional use must hold a Certificate of Competence. It will also be an offence to purchase PPPs unless they can ensure that the end user holds the Certificate of Competence.

If a person does not currently hold a Certificate of Competence, one must be obtained before the 26th November 2015 so that pesticides can be legally purchased and applied on their land/property or on behalf of their employer. This qualification will be the City and Guilds NPTC Level 2 Award in the Safe Use of Pesticides Replacing Grandfather Rights. If a person intends to work as a contractor or applies PPPs to land/property that isn’t owned or occupied by them or their employer, they will need to obtain one of the existing Level 2 Safe Use of Pesticide Awards appropriate to the work and the equipment they use.



hush-farms-logoFor more detailed course outlines and guidelines visit Hush Farms for more information about the pesticide qualifications most suitable for yourself, volunteers or employees.





Photograph copyright Hush Farms