Spray drift risk operating principles

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has developed a risk assessment framework for spray drift management. The spray drift risk assessment manual (SDRAM) describes the methods and scientific principles the APVMA uses to assess and manage spray drift issues.


The Commonwealth of Australia and the states and territories work together to regulate agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines in Australia. The Commonwealth, through the APVMA, assesses all such products prior to registration and determines how those products may be used by putting instructions and limitations on product labels. The individual states and territories are responsible for user compliance with these instructions and limitations.

The APVMA acknowledges its responsibility to address the potentially harmful effects of off-target spray drift associated with chemical use that can occur at times with applications of agricultural chemicals. In this document, the APVMA explains what factors it considers and how it assesses and takes measures to mitigate spray drift risk. These risk assessment and risk management principles have been developed with 4 aims:

  • Ensure registration and review processes deal adequately with spray-drift-related risks to human health, the environment and international trade.
  • Create and maintain a consistent and transparent process for making registration and review decisions in relation to spray drift risk assessment and risk mitigation.
  • Harmonise the APVMA’s approach with the respective capacities of the states and territories to enforce spray drift risk mitigation measures.
  • Promote understanding among product registrants, chemical users and the community about how the APVMA makes regulatory decisions when there are spray drift concerns.

In its latest refinement of these principles, the APVMA has followed a risk management approach consistent with its past experience, with current scientific understanding of spray drift risk and with current international methodologies.

The APVMA's responsibility in relation to spray drift

The legislation under which the APVMA derives its powers (Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994) sets out the factors that the APVMA must consider in registering an agricultural or veterinary chemical product for use. When the APVMA considers registering an agricultural chemical product, it must satisfy itself, according to scientific principles, that the product can be used to achieve its intended purpose and at the same time not be likely to harm human health, the environment or Australia’s international trade. To achieve this end, the APVMA determines instructions for use and limitations on use for each product and places them on the product’s label. User compliance with these instructions and limitations falls under the enforcement powers of the states and territories.

Ideally, a chemical product would only be applied to the intended target. However, the APVMA recognises that measurable off-target spray drift can occur at times even when the product is applied with care. The APVMA, therefore, has an obligation to consider the potentially harmful consequences of that associated spray drift and determine whether it would be likely to harm human health and the environment or unduly prejudice Australia’s international trade.

If the APVMA finds that spray drift associated with a chemical application would be likely to cause harm, the APVMA cannot allow that product to be used unless a way can be found to prevent that harm from occurring.

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