What Steps can employers and employees on farms take to avoid accidents involving Slurry Pits?
Some of the dangers regarding slurry pits are obvious. Some are less so- and more dangerous for that.
There is the obvious risk of slipping in and getting into difficulty and in the worst case drowning. On top of this (and this is what makes the Slurry Pit particularly dangerous on farms) is that the fumes are extremely toxic. They can cause unconsciousness which can lead to falls with the attendant tragic consequences
Why is the Toxic Gas so Dangerous?
The reason is simple physics- the gas caused by slurry is heavier than air. It is a mixture of gases including carbon monoxide ammonia and hydrogen sulphide. This means that it forms what looks like a cloud on top of the surface of the slurry. The difficulty is knowing what is a safe distance from these fumes as where they are and where they are going is difficult to predict.
The most dangerous of the gases is hydrogen sulphide- the main gas caused by the slurry in the process of decomposition. The effects of breathing this gas are particularly problematic as it knocks out a sense of smell which means a lack of awareness of the dangers of breathing further gulps of the gas. The gas then causes difficulty in breathing (as it works directly on the nervous system) and following this a person affected may collapse and death can occur very quickly afterwards.
How is the Dangerous Gas Released?
The cloud of gas at the top of the surface of the slurry liquid is the tip of the iceberg. Much of the gas remains dissolved in the slurry but is bubbling away beneath the surface. Slurry regularly mixed and added to – therefore the gas bubbles are released and come into the air with dangerously unpredictable consequences.
What Can be Done To avoid Accidents?
Workers need also to make sure (if going near to the surface of the toxic fumes) that appropriate protection is worn. It is unfortunately too easy (and human nature) for farm workers and managers to be lulled into a false sense of security because of daily contact with the slurry pit areas. Vigilance is needed at all times
Unfortunately when it comes to slurry a face mask is not enough- a full set of independent breathing apparatus is required if approaching a slurry tank. Working in or around slurry tank is a specialist task and needs to be carried out by people familiar with the dangers and with the equipment to deal with these hazards
- The standard list of dos in working with slurry and mixing is as follows:
- Remove all animals from the vicinity
- Open all doors and windows
- If possible mix slurry on a day where this a lot of natural wind movement outside- to ensure maximum ventilation inside
- Always have independent breathing apparatus (never a simply facemask)
- Ensure that meters to measure the gas toxicity are available and working
- If you are going to work near a slurry tank make sure that another worker or manager knows you are going – so they can raise the alarm quickly if necessary
What Should I do if a relative or Friend is injured or killed in a Slurry Accident?
Slurry accidents are ones where a specialist Solicitor is needed. They are almost certain to have had serious – possibly fatal – consequences. They are Specialist both in the technical nature of the claim and also because substantial amount of money will be involved in compensation.
A Solicitor will need to be involved as quickly as possible after the incident so that they can take all necessary steps to ensure that evidence is preserved as required. They will need to liaise with the Health and Safety Executive and various other insurers and Solicitors. It is vital that anybody affected – or the relative of anybody affected makes sure they get proper specialist legal advice as soon as possible after the incident.
For free initial advice please call 01535 958 778, email us, or use the contact form on this page.
We want to ensure that you get every penny of the compensation you are entitled to as quickly and efficiently as possible.