Quality program for protective clothing shows relevance of public-private partnership in agricultural research

Initiative that brings together the private sector and the Agronomic Institute (IAC) changed quality standards in the manufacture of PPE and transferred more protection to the agrochemical applicator

03.05.2021 | 20:59 (UTC -3)
Fernanda Campos

Today positioned among global references in support of factory production and the development of quality studies for agricultural protective clothing, or EPI – personal protective equipment -, Brazil has already been the center of an adverse scenario in the area. Around 15 years ago, there were not even any technical standards in the country that would allow analyzing the quality and safety of these products, specific to rural work involving the application of agricultural pesticides or agrochemicals.

This reality began to change when a group of companies that manufacture agricultural clothing and the Agronomic Institute (IAC) met at ABNT - Brazilian Association of Technical Standards - to deal in depth with the normative issue and simultaneously with the safety linked to PPE.

From the consequences of this meeting, in 2006, the IAC Program for the Quality of Personal Protective Equipment in Agriculture, known as IAC-Quepia, emerged. The initiative, uninterrupted and since then more comprehensive each year, aims to invest in agricultural research to improve the quality and durability of PPE, in addition to reducing rural workers' exposure to chemicals. At the time, a group of agricultural pesticide manufacturers, who resold similar equipment, also joined the program.

“‘Quepia’ became one of the first public-private partnership programs associated with agricultural research. Its results support the strategic relevance of the model”, says Hamilton Ramos, researcher at the Engineering and Automation Center (CEA), the Agronomic Institute (IAC), the Department of Agriculture and Supply of the State of SP. The program has been operating since its inception within the CEA area, in Jundiaí, São Paulo.

Coordinator of IAC-Quepia and also of other initiatives that aim to make agricultural activity safer and more sustainable - such as the Aplique Bem, Spraying Adjuvants and Reference Unit programs -, the researcher reveals that Quepia's actions helped to reduce rejections of Brazilian protective agricultural clothing from 80% in 2010 to less than 20% today.

This is a huge gain. This strengthened the protection of rural workers and provided a technical basis for the Ministry of Labor, in 2009, to abolish the Certificate of Approval (CA) due to liability, forcing the industry to seek certifications based on ISO standards – International Standardization Organization – to your products.

“Today, the program provides the IAC-Quepia quality seal to its partners’ protective clothing, once approved in analysis, and helps agricultural companies and PPE users to select qualified suppliers”, adds Ramos. “Without private resources, this progress would not have been achieved in Brazilian agriculture.”

Extent of the search 

The knowledge generated by the IAC-Quepia team of researchers made Brazil the first country to adopt ISO standards to certify protective clothing. Furthermore: it elevated the researcher and his team to the center of an elite group of scholars on the subject, housed in the International Consortium for the Quality of Personal Protective Equipment in Agriculture. Ramos also became an effective member as a representative of ABNT on the ISO Global Committee dedicated to research in the area.

Close to completing 15 years, next May, IAC-Quepia is now investing to extend its scope to research involving the quality of protective gloves and the generation of a methodology capable of evaluating product residues on clothing after its useful life. The program's laboratory, in Jundiaí, should also receive its International Accreditation certificate this year, which will place it in a restricted group of units capable of carrying out more than 25 certification tests based on ISO standards.

Mosaic Biosciences March 2024