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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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VIDEO: Taking all precautions to prevent deaths and injuries associated with slurry handling

Handling slurry is one of the most hazardous activities on a farm, with the main risk being becoming overcome by slurry gases, which can lead to poisoning, suffocation or drowning.

That is according to Teagasc, who has launched a new joint collaborative farm safety digital media campaign with the HSA, Farm Safety Partnership and FBD Insurance.

The bodies have produced a series of short videos containing industry-leading life-saving advice covering livestock handling, farmer’s health, sheep farming, chemicals, children, slurry handling, harvesting and farm machinery.

In its slurry handling safety video, the partners outlined that livestock farming produces large amounts of organic waste, which is a “great source” of organic nutrients but needs careful handling to prevent death and life-changing injury.

The bodies highlighted that 6% of farm fatalities are due to drowning or suffocation.

Main points from the video on agitation:
  • Fence open slurry and/or water tanks to a height of 1.8m and secure including locked gates to prevent access;
  • Check weather for wind speed before planning slurry agitation;
  • Only agitate on a breezy day when there is “considerable” air movement;
  • One lung full of hydrogen sulfide gas released during agitation can kill;
  • Remember – evacuate, ventilate, agitate;
  • Keep agitation points to slatted tanks secure;
  • Keep all livestock, people and pets clear of the slatted shed when agitating;
  • Ensure buildings are well-ventilated with all doors and outlets open;
  • Stay away from the agitation point and out of the slatted shed for at least 30 minutes after starting agitation;
  • Give additional time when there are linked tanks and linked buildings;
  • Slurry gas, which is heavier than air, may travel into poorly ventilated locations within sheds;
  • Slurry gas can also travel through linked tanks and pipes to locations away from the tank;
  • Check for and stay out of blind ends, where slurry gas may build up;
  • Indoor agitation points are very dangerous – avoid as there are a number of options, including extending tanks and installing outdoor agitating points, fitting a slurry circulation pipe, pumping slurry to a large outdoor capacity tank, installing a slurry aeration system or using slurry additives.

Slats and slurry tanks:

  • Check slats regularly for evidence of sagging or cracks;
  • Request an assessment by a slat manufacturer or engineer if concerns exist;
  • Shock impacts from machinery can result in slat failure;
  • Never enter a slurry tank, even if empty – Gases may linger;
  • Always request professional assistance.

PPE and fixtures and fittings:

  • Wear noise-producing ear protection when agitating slurry and working close to the vacuum pump;
  • Wear tight-fitting clothing, appropriate gloves and footwear;
  • Always ensure the PTO on the slurry tank and agitator are completely guarded;
  • Check that there is no damage or cracking on the guard and that the O guards, U guards and chains are all in place before operation.
  • The manhole opening should be completely covered by the frame of the agitator;
  • Secure all clovers and gates accessing tanks when not used;
  • Use access holes and safety grids for pipes where present;
  • Take great care when operating large slurry tankers on public roads, soft ground and especially on steep slopes or where sudden changes in direction are required;
  • Loss of control and overturning are common with these machines;
  • Only experienced operators should carry out the task;
  • Take care to ensure operators understand the movement of the slurry within the slurry tank and also the implications of associated sudden changes in weight distribution on stability;
  • Trailing shoe or dribble bar attachments can also influence tanker weight distribution and stability;
  • Also take care to avoid contact with overhead power lines and ESB poles;
  • Slurry pipes can operate at high pressure, especially on systems where slurry is pumped directly from the shed to the field or to other tanks;
  • Important that pipes are in good condition, are kept away from sharp objects, and the pressure is released before disconnection or working on blockages;
  • Plan your slurry spreading and take all precautions to prevent deaths and injuries associated with slurry handling.

Other news article on child safety on farms.

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