The HSENI (Health and Safety Executive) has warned that slurry season brings renewed risks to farmers.
It has appealed to farmers to take care when working with slurry.
The closed period for spreading slurry will come to an end in Northern Ireland at midnight on January 31st, 2022.
The mixing of slurry comes with many risks as it produces a “dangerous” mixture of gases.
These include methane, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and the extremely poisonous gas, hydrogen sulphide.
A HSENI spokesperson said: “Even a low concentration of hydrogen sulphide can knock out your sense of smell, so you won’t even know it’s there.”
“At higher concentrations, you will rapidly find it harder to breathe and become confused. At certain concentrations, just one breath can kill.”
Stop, think and plan ahead
Camilla Mackey, principal inspector of HSENI’s Agriculture and Food team, said:
“It is that time of year again when our farmers start to prepare to empty their slurry tanks, some of which have filled up completely over the winter months.”
“Before starting any job on the farm, including slurry mixing, take time to stop, think and safely plan the work ahead.”
“Keep children and animals far away during the slurry mixing process, ventilate the area and mix on a windy day where possible.”
“Always remove livestock from the shed before starting to mix. Stay out of the building for at least 30 minutes after the mixing starts and every time you move the pump or change the direction of mixing.”
“Sadly, in 2021, HSENI recorded one fatality involving slurry gas. However, there are countless near misses every year where farmers, employees or family members are gassed.”
“It is critical that farmers follow the slurry mixing code. Slurry gas kills; it is as simple as that. Farmers are fully aware of this but continue to take chances. If you follow the slurry mixing code, there should be no issue.”
The advice to farmers is to follow the slurry mixing code:
The safety watchdog advises farmers and agricultural contractors to always:
- Keep children away from the area at all times;
- If possible, mix on a windy day;
- Open all doors;
- Take all animals out of the building before starting to mix slurry;
- Use outside mixing points first;
- If slats are removed, cover exposed areas of the tank beside the pump/mixer to stop anything falling in;
- Start the pump/mixer – then get out and stay out of the building for as long as possible – at least 30 minutes;
- Any time you have to go into the building, try to make sure that another adult knows what you are doing and can get help if necessary;
- if you have to re-enter to move the pump or change the direction of the pump, leave the building as soon as this is done. Do not go back in for as long as possible – at least another 30 minutes.
- Rely on filter-type facemasks;
- Use gas monitors as a substitute for working safely;
- Have naked flames near slurry, as slurry gas mixture is flammable;
- Stand close to the exhaust of a vacuum tanker when it is being filled.
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