Farm Safety Reminder - Manure Gas
September 29, 2022 01:30 PM
Considering the amount of time producers and professional manure handlers spend working with manure, manure gas incidents can be viewed are relatively infrequent occurrences. However, we have come to realize that many instances of loss of consciousness or livestock loss go unreported.
As fall harvest starts, and fall manure applications are planned, we offer the following recommendation regarding manure gasses:
- Hydrogen sulfide is our most dangerous gas and can cause immediate asphyxiation at high levels. Some of today's economic imports to the farm, such as distiller's grains or gypsum bedding, increase sulfur levels in manure. Microbial degradation of sulfur compounds in storage leaves hydrogen sulfide as a by-product. Click here to learn more about gypsum bedding risk at this Penn State webinar recording.
- Open-air areas around a manure storage should be considered a confined space because they have limited means of entry and exit and are not designed for normal worker occupancy. A high percentage of manure-relate injuries and deaths occur inside storage barrier fences.
- Repair and equipment retrieval is dangerous. It is tempting to enter a confined area for a quick job. Do not do that. Remove equipment for maintenance and retrieve dropped items with a magnet or hook.
- Rescuers are at risk. Rescuers often end up as victims. The recommendation of course it to never go in to try to retrieve someone without proper rescue equipment. That's easy to say, but perhaps harder to adhere to when a family member or co-worker is in trouble. In this situation it is better to be an unsung hero by operating in a manner that minimizes risk and avoids these situations in the first place. Don't become a statistic.
- Liquid manures are more dangerous than solid manures. Nonetheless, solid manure systems need respect.
- Complacency kills. It is not unusual in fatality situations to hear things like, "He's gone in there to unclog that pump a hundred times". Make safety your routine.
- Anaerobic, oxygen free conditions like those found under the surface of liquid manure present increased risk.
- Make choices for children. Adults should take precautions to educate and protect children that live or visit a farm. This means providing kid-proof barricades to manure storage and handling areas.
- Ventilate! Keep air moving through confined spaces and animal housing areas. Keep workers and livestock safe.
- Agitation is like shaking a soda can. Agitation and movement of manure releases gas. Static manure situations can accumulate aqueous forms of gas that are released during disturbance. To demonstrate this in trainings I often shake one cola can and not shake another. I put these behind my back then hand a random can to a class participant. Attendees respect (fear?) the risk of the foamy mess the 12-ounce can may create. Such respect is necessary when moving manure.
- You can work yourself to death. Agricultural work ethics are unparalleled, however at any sign of gas exposure or dangerous gas levels clear all workers from suspect areas and take a break.
- Monitors. Gas monitors provide an alarm of invisible dangers. These can be worn on the belt. Several vendors sell or rent reliable monitors. Click here to learn more about manure gas monitors.