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Watch: slurry safety on the farm
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Watch: slurry safety on the farm

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With the fine weather predicted this week, this is prime time for slurry agitation and spreading. But caution is advised.
With the fine weather predicted this week, this is prime time for slurry agitation and spreading. But caution is advised.

A mixture of manure and water, slurry is used by farmers as a natural fertiliser for their crops.

However, slurry pits can be extremely dangerous, and present two main risks to farmers – drowning and being overcome by fumes.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), drowning is by far the most common cause of death involving slurry. Children and the elderly are at particular risk. In the period 2000 to 2010, 30% of child fatal accidents on farms were caused by drowning in slurry or water. In the same period 8% of deaths to elderly farmers were caused by drowning.

Agitation is the most dangerous part of slurry spreading. It is at this mixing stage that the invisible gases are produced that can kill within seconds. The tricky part about fumes emanating from slurry pits is that they are odourless – so no smell is not an indicator of the absence of gas.

Use outdoor agitation points where possible – one lung-full of slurry gas can kill

However, one breath or lung-full of hydrogen sulphide released from slurry agitation causes instant death.

Here are some tips from the HSE to keep you and your family safe during slurry agitation season:

  • Use outdoor agitation points where possible – one lung-full of slurry gas can kill
  • Only agitate where there is good air movement
  • Evacuate all livestock and make sure no person or animal is in or near the building
  • Never enter the slurry tank or any confined space unless you are wearing suitable breathing apparatus and/or a harness attached to a lifeline controlled by at least two other adults positioned outside of the area
  • Open all doors and outlets to provide a draught
  • At least two people should be present and should stand up-wind
  • Keep all people away from the agitation point for 30 minutes after starting agitation
  • Never stand over slats or near tank access points when agitation is in progress
  • Do not allow slurry to rise within 300mm of the slats or tank covers
  • In the video below, our machinery editor James Maloney talks to Tom Ryan from Kildalton College about how to agitate safely.

    Read more

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