Contractor’s discovery ‘a stark reminder’ of slurry-mixing dangers

An agri-contractor based in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, made a surprise discovery that could well have saved his life when mixing slurry recently.

Alan Naughton runs a contracting enterprise that focuses on slurry, dung spreading, baling and hedge cutting.

He explained that he was recently mixing slurry for a farmer in his area and happened to notice two hens on the farm had wandered into the shed where the activity was taking place.

As he was preparing to enter the slatted area to inspect how well the slurry was mixing, he discovered that the hens had been overcome by the slurry fumes.

He explained: “What happened was I started agitating at one end of the shed and then I walked around the shed to the outside to see was the slurry moving down at the far end.

Just as I was about to go in on the slats and take a look, I discovered the two dead chickens.

Alan described the incident as “a huge wake up call” and said: “I know as a contractor that there is an awful amount of people that rush straight in after they put the agitator in the tank.

“I always warn my own lads to allow time for the fumes to disperse before going in to a shed to look down at the slurry.”

Concluding, Alan said: “You can’t be careful enough and people sometimes tend to take the hazards for granted when mixing slurry.”

HSA advice

According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), when mixing slurry, the following advice should be adhered to for safety purposes:
  • Never agitate slurry in still air conditions;
  • Move all animals out of the shed before commencing;
  • At least two people should be present at all times;
  • Keep children and elderly persons away from the area when agitating;
  • Open all doors and outlets to provide a draught;
  • Never stand over slats or near tank access points when agitation is in progress;
  • Avoid vigorous agitation in confined spaces;
  • Do not allow slurry to rise within 300mm of the slats or tank covers;
  • Keep all people away from the agitation point for 30 minutes after starting agitation;
  • Never enter the slurry tank 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;
  • Where possible, agitate from the outside of the building;
  • Avoid smoking or the use of naked lights as slurry gases are highly flammable;
  • Put up warning signs to warn of the dangers when working with slurry.