Millions of litres of pesticides are used annually in the world. Currently more than 300 hazardous chemical compounds including various chemical fertilizers that are used for soil fertility as well as various pesticides for the control of pests, diseases, and weeds in the agricultural land (Bondori et al., 2016). Dealing with these essentially toxic chemicals, including their preparation and spraying, poses great risks to farmers who are exposed to these hazardous chemicals (Baldi et al., 2012; Bagheri et al., 2019). Some experts believe that the first step for reducing pesticides risks to the farmers is to conduct research on farmers’ attitudes and behaviors about pesticides in agriculture (Koh and Jeyaratnam, 1996). Understanding farmers’ behavior in pesticide handling is crucial for promoting safety in agriculture, yet little information exists in the literature with regard to greenhouse farmers. From this point of view, the current study adds new knowledge to the area of farmers’ occupational exposure to pesticides and safety behavior during pesticide handling, focusing on greenhouse farmers. Findings could be useful for extension services to shape appropriate programs for farmers’ training on pesticide use.
The majority of the greenhouse farmers in the study had relatively weak to moderate behavior in PPE use. It was found that PPE was used occasionally, most commonly the simple facemask. Previous studies also showed similar results concerning farmers’ safety behavior during spraying and preparation of pesticides (Yassin et al., 2002; Aghili-Nejad et al., 2005; Recena et al., 2006; Atreya, 2007; Ghasemi and Karami, 2009; Golzardi et al., 2011; Omari, 2014; Weng et al., 2015; Damalas and Abdollahzadeh, 2016). However, other studies (Gün and Kan, 2009; Gaber and Abdul-Latif, 2012; Al-Zadjali et al., 2013; Karunamoorthi and Yirgalem, 2013) showed moderate to good use of PPE by farmers. Some researchers believe that misconceptions can seriously affect farmers’ behavior to protect themselves from pesticide risks (Salameh et al., 2003; Ghasemi and Karami, 2009). PPE use in pesticide handling can be influenced by several factors, such as demographics, farm structure, behavioral factors, and environmental factors (Sapbamrer and Thammachai, 2020). For example, previous research showed that perception of pesticides being hazardous substances, upper secondary education, previous training on pesticide use, and farm size under cultivation predicted behavior in PPE use (Damalas and Abdollahzadeh, 2016; Sookhtanlou and Allahyari, 2021). Therefore, life-long education programs are necessary for changing wrong perceptions and behavior of pesticide handlers.
According to the findings, 25% of the farmers had moderate levels of knowledge about the risks of pesticides. This finding is consistent with the findings of some previous studies (Aghili-Nejad et al., 2007; Chen et al., 2013; Mohanty et al., 2013). In particular, improving farmers’ knowledge of pesticide risks was found to reduce pesticide use by 10–15% (Chen et al., 2013). Moreover, 35% of farmers had a moderate to strong attitude towards pesticide risks. Farmers’ proper attitude can be effective in guiding them to perform safety behavior (Nazarian et al., 2009). Some studies showed that farmers’ attitudes toward pesticide risks are negative (Ghasemi and Karami, 2009; Golzardi et al., 2011). Other studies have shown that farmers’ attitudes towards pesticide risks are moderate to positive (Nazarian et al., 2009). Education level played an important role in raising awareness about the hazards of pesticides (Karunamoorthi and Yirgalem, 2013). Nevertheless, findings from Egypt showed that the level of education did not alter the safety behavior of farmers (Gaber and Abdul-Latif 2012). Therefore, it is necessary to pay more attention to raising the level of knowledge of pesticide risks in preparing extension education programs. In the current study, knowledge of pesticide risks shaped farmers’ attitudes towards pesticide risk and attitudes towards pesticide risks had the maximum impact on safety behavior in PPE use. Therefore, knowledge of pesticide risks is necessary for improving farmers’ safety behavior. Furthermore, attitude is a main component of human behavior. Farmers’ attitudes towards pesticide risks were found to have a positive and significant relationship with safety behaviors of farmers’ use of PPE, which is in line with previous studies (Golzardi et al., 2011; Ghasemi and Karami, 2009; Nazarian et al., 2009).
Farmers’ knowledge of pesticide risks was significantly correlated with safety behaviors in the use of PPE. A significant relationship was found between farmers’ information source and their safety behavior. Communicating with agricultural promoters, reading specialized journals and the like can be effective by providing the necessary training to farmers for improving their safety behavior. Poisoning of agricultural workers with pesticides, especially in developing countries, is one of the most common occupational hazards related to the use of pesticides (Golzardi et al., 2011; Ghasemi and Karami, 2009). According to the findings of this study, a significant relationship was found between the history of poisoning and the behavior of farmers’ PPE, which is consistent with the findings of previous studies (Gomez et al., 1998; Baldi et al., 2012). Previous research showed that the variable episode of intoxication in the past exerted the strongest positive influence on PPE use (Damalas and Abdollahzadeh, 2016).