Glyphosate use in local government

The Health (Pesticide) Regulations 2011 exist to help protect the public from exposure to pesticides. The Department of Health (the Department) licenses and regulates pest management technicians and pest management businesses in Western Australia and enforces provisions associated with the safe use, application, storage and disposal of pesticides.

All pesticides pose some level of risk. Even pesticides that are considered low toxicity, natural or organic can be hazardous to a person if a person has direct contact with enough of the pesticide.  This is one of the many reasons why appropriate safe-use of any pesticide is important.

What is glyphosate, and can it be used safely?

Glyphosate is a herbicide widely used to control weeds. Within Australia, there are over 500 products containing glyphosate registered for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).  Glyphosate like other pesticides is considered safe to use when all instructions on the label are followed. 

Concerns about the safety of glyphosate have been broadly discussed and publicised in recent times. The APVMA have produced a fact sheet (external site) that discusses the use of glyphosate and addresses some of the broader health concerns associated with its use.

The Departments position on glyphosate is that it is of low risk when used according to the label. The ruling of recent court proceedings in the USA does not constitute evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic. The international agency for research on cancer classify glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. To put this into perspective, the consumption of red meat is also classified as probable carcinogen.

Where can I find more information on the use of glyphosate in local government pest control programs?

Local government authorities (LGA’s) can choose whether to use pesticides or not. This includes the use of glyphosate.  The decision not to use glyphosate could be made based on community support. However, a safe alternative must then be provided.

LGA’s in WA are responsible for the control of pests within their own jurisdictions. This includes the development and management of pest control programs. The Department recommends LGA’s adopt integrated pest management principles in all pest control programs, including weed control programs. Non-chemical treatments are encouraged wherever possible although, it is also recognised that treatments such as slashing, burning and steaming may not be appropriate, feasible or financially sustainable for a LGA.

When considering the use of any pesticide including glyphosate the Department recommends LGA’s refer to A guide to the management of pesticides in local government pest control programs in Western Australia 765KB) for more information about meeting community expectations and developing an effective pest control program.

Where do I refer complaints about unsafe use of pesticides by a pest management technician?

All complaints or concerns about the unsafe use of pesticides can be reported to the Department for investigation. Occasionally environmental health officers may be asked to assist in an investigation, this is more common in regional WA.

Where do I find information about the requirements for local government using pesticides?

LGA employees that undertake pest control on land managed or owned by a LGA are exempt from being licenced and registered with the Department but must have completed adequate training and education in the safe use of pesticides, relevant to the pest control they are undertaking.  Many LGA’s choose to contract or employ licensed pest management technicians instead.

Except for licensing and registration, a LGA is required to comply with all other requirements of the Health (Pesticide) Regulations 2011.  If a LGA receives a direct complaint about their unsafe use of pesticides, they should in the first instance conduct a review of their pest control program.

More information

Chemical Hazards
Phone:9222 2000

Last reviewed: 02-12-2020
Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate