Slurry pressure is on…but are you putting safety first?

With just two weeks until the end of this year’s slurry spreading season, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is urging farmers to take extra care when working – particularly during mixing.

The closed period for slurry spreading due to commence at midnight on October 15, 2018, in Northern Ireland.

It’s a critical time for farm safety with several farmers killed or hospitalised rushing to meet the deadline in recent years.

Last year, two men in Fintona, Co. Tyrone were hospitalised in a slurry accident. The year before, dairy farmer Alistair Sloss was killed in a slurry accident one day before the closed period was set to begin.

Alistair was overcome by fumes while mixing slurry, and fell into a slurry tank at his farm in Coagh.

Slurry gas is a mixture of gases, including the extremely poisonous gas, hydrogen sulphide. 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 – and at certain concentrations, just one breath can kill.

Mixing slurry can be a dangerous job as the gas is released very quickly, and in large quantities, as soon as the mixing starts.

The first 30 minutes are the most dangerous, so it is important to remove all stock from the shed before mixing starts and for farmers to leave the building as soon as the mixing starts.

It is also vitally important to stay out of the shed for at least 30 minutes after the mixing starts.

Malcolm Downey, who heads up the farm safety team at HSENI, appeals to farmers mixing slurry before the commencement of the closed period.

Downey said: “Do not take any chances when mixing slurry; your life may depend on it. Stop and think about the entire job ahead and ensure you follow the slurry mixing code.

“When mixing slurry, keep children and animals away at all times. Farmers must stay out for 30 minutes after starting mixing or after moving or re-directing the pump.”

The slurry mixing code

  • Keep children away from the area at all times when working with slurry;
  • 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 or mixer then get out and stay out of the building for as long as possible – at least 30 minutes;
  • If you have to go into the building, make sure that another adult who knows what you are doing stays outside and can get help if needed;
  • 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.

Never

  • Rely on filter-type face masks;
  • 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.

More information about working safely with slurry can be found on the HSENI farm safety webpage.