Between October to January the spreading of organic manure, such as slurry is prohibited on Irish farms. During this period, the risk of nutrient leaching is at its highest with little or no plant growth. This closed period helps protect water courses from pollution.
Midnight of January 31st marks the end of this period. Farmers will be able to spread fertilisers and manure across their land.
The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is reminding farmers of the dangers of slurry and the key safety tips to consider. So what is it and why is it one of the main causes of fatalities within the agriculture/farming industry?
Why Does Slurry Kill?
Slurry is animal manure that’s mixed with water, which acts as a great natural fertiliser for crops. Animal waste is collected over the winter period and stored in tanks. Farmers will need to break down and mix the slurry in order to be used on their land. This mixing of slurry causes dangerous gases to be released, including Hydrogen Sulphide. At high concentrations, it will block your sense of smell, cause disorientation and affect the nervous system. It can instantly kill as the gas replaces the air in the lungs.
In recent years, there have been several cases of fatalities within farms due to slurry mixing. This includes the deaths of three members of the same family after they were all overcome by fumes – the worst farming tragedy in Northern Ireland for 20 years. Along with the above, there were also some cases of farmers losing consciousness and falling into the slurry pit, where they drowned.
According to statistics released by the Health and Safety Authority, 10% of the all fatalities suffered between 2007 – 2016 were gas related or drowning.
These tragedies serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of working with slurry. Statistics released by the HSA, shows there was an increase in fatalities within the agriculture/farming industry with most of them working alone at the time. Martin O’Halloran, HSA Chief Executive, stated that more measures needs to be put in place to protect the safety of these lone working farmers.
Stop and Think SAFE
The ‘Stop and Think SAFE’ farm safety campaign aims to raise awareness of the main causes of fatalities. SAFE: Slurry, Animals, Falls and Equipment. It aims to educate farmers to adopt a safer approach to working on their farms.
We’ve summarised the top 7 safety tips to improve the safety of farmers whilst dealing with slurry:
1. Carry a lone worker safety device with a “Mandown” feature whilst working alone – this will automatically raise an alarm when it detects a fall, especially important if you suddenly lose consciousness and need immediate medical assistance.
2. Keep children and animals away from the area all times when working with slurry.
3. Open all windows, doors and if possible, mix the slurry on a windy day as it will help to disperse the toxic gas away quicker.
4. Always ensure that exposed covers of the tank is closed, this would help to minimise anything falling in.
5. Once the pump or mixer is started, leave the building immediately and stay out as long as possible. Be at least 30 minutes.
6. If you re-enter to move the pump or change its direction. Once again, leave the building and stay out for at least another 30 minutes.
7. Slurry gas is highly flammable so ensure to never have naked flames near the slurry tank.
If you would like more information regarding the lone worker safety solutions we offer or if you would like to trial our devices free for 30 days, then please contact our sales team on 016 855745 / UK: 0207 118 8247 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.