Drowning and gas poisoning are the two major health and safety problems when it comes to slurry.

Drowning is the most common cause of death, but one lungful of slurry gas can kill and death is instant, according to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

In the period 2000-2010, 30% of child fatal accidents on farms were caused by drowning in slurry or water, its figures show.

In the same period 8% of deaths to elderly farmers were caused by drowning.

When agitating slurry, it is advised that these guidelines are followed:

  • Agitate on windy days.
  • Remove all livestock and remove pets.
  • Open all doors and control access.
  • Agitate/ventilate and stay away for at least 30 minutes.
  • Work upwind all the time.
  • Never enter the tank, even when it is empty.
  • Keep tank openings secure at all times.
  • If possible avoid agitating alone.

The HSA states that you should never enter a tank for any reason - gases can build up and remain in partially emptied tanks above the slurry.

Farmers should also put up warning signs to warn of the dangers when working with slurry.

When agitating slurry, the advice is to guard the PTO on the slurry tanker and agitator - do not use unless correctly guarded.

A high proportion of PTO entanglements occur when using slurry tankers, according to the HSA. 

When the tank has to be emptied, the HSA has said to consider having an adequately constructed access platform with safety rails.

Covered or slatted tanks require access manholes that children cannot open easily.

Fit a safety grid below the manhole to give secondary protection and all slurry tanks should be adequately fenced, the HSA said.