How to safely deal with slurry

The two safety concerns presented by slurry are drowning and gas poisoning, and it is of utmost importance that farmers take the correct precautions against them.

From 2000-2010, 30{b28040870e2dde01f25bc5b483275391226143b34751c4bb8f1feeecaec925a1} of child fatal accidents on farms were caused by drowning in slurry or water. Also during that time, 8{b28040870e2dde01f25bc5b483275391226143b34751c4bb8f1feeecaec925a1} of deaths to elderly farmers were caused by drowning.

While low levels of the extremely dangerous gas hydrogen sulphide have a ‘rotten egg‘ smell, at high levels, the gas is odorless.

One breath of air with a high level of hydrogen sulphide can be fatal.

The HSA has compiled a list of tips for farmers to correctly protect themselves while dealing with slurry. We have included them below . 

  • Do not allow slurry to rise within 300mm of the slats or tank covers.
  • Avoid smoking and naked flames as the gas mixture can be highly flammable.
  • Never enter a tank for any reason – gases can build up and remain in partially emptied tanks above the slurry.
  • 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.
  • Put up warning signs to warn of the dangers when working with slurry.
  • Scrape holes on outdoor lagoons should be adequately protected.
  • Cover all slurry tank manhole openings.
  • Beware of the risk of back injury if you need to lift slats in the shed.
  • Agricultural contractors must be aware of the dangers of working with slurry and should ensure that they work safely at all times.
  • Open slurry tanks should be protected by an unclimbable fence or wall at least 1.8 metres high, with locked gates.
  • When the tank has to be emptied, consider having an adequately constructed access platform with safety rails.
  • Covered or slatted tanks require access manholes that children cannot open easily. Fit a safety grid below the manhole to give secondary protection. All slurry tanks should be adequately fenced.
  • Evacuate all livestock and make sure no person or animal is in or near the building.
  • Use outdoor agitation points where possible – one lung-full of slurry gas can kill.
  • Only agitate where there is good air movement.
  • Evacuate and ventilate before you agitate.
  • Open all doors and outlets to provide a draught.
  • Avoid vigorous agitation in confined spaces.
  • 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.
  • Keep children and elderly persons away from the area when agitating.
  • Never stand over slats or near tank access points when agitation is in progress.

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