One Argyll farmer has attempted to highlight the dangers of the extremely poisonous ‘silent killer’ that is hydrogen sulphide.

A video shared on the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Facebook page, David Colthart of Achnacone Farm, demonstrates how a gas monitor operates, and how he believes it has saved his life on more than one occasion.

The video follows the launch of efforts this week by the Farm Safety Partnership Scotland (FSPS) encouraging farmers and crofters to make safety a priority.

Fatal gas

Mixing slurry is a common part of everyday life on the farm but can be a particularly dangerous job, once agitation begins the gas is released almost immediately and in large quantities.

According to Farm Safety Partnership Scotland, the first 30 minutes are the most dangerous and it is vitally important for farmers to leave the shed as soon as the mixing begins – and to stay out for at least 30 minutes.

Even a low concentration of hydrogen sulphide can knock out your sense of smell. At higher concentrations you will find it harder to breathe and become confused – and at certain concentrations, just one breath can kill.

Although a gas monitor should never be used as a substitute for working safely, it can help to provide reassurance.

‘Worth every penny’

The video issued by Farm Safety Partnership Scotland has received full backing by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland.

Colthart bought the gas monitor as an ex-hire seven years ago after a friend pointed out about his neighbour who had died after exposure to hydrogen sulphide.

For just a few hundred pounds it has been a lifesaver for him on more than one occasion and he urges others to make that investment as it could prevent serious injury or even death.

Poor safety record

Scotland’s farm safety record continues to be one of the poorest across the UK.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, over the last five years 10 people have been killed by asphyxiation or drowning, including when working with slurry pits.

This figure does not include those who have had ‘near-misses’ with slurry gases or animals that have been lost to gas exposure.

“We are told time and again of how dangerous slurry gases can be, but many still don’t take heed. Even exposure to hydrogen sulphide for a short period of time can render you unconscious and it really isn’t worth the risk,” said the Argyll farmer.