Farmers are urged to take extra care when working with slurry by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) as the closed period for spreading slurry comes to an end for northern counties at the end of the month.

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

First 30 minutes

The first 30 minutes are the most dangerous, so it is important for farmers to leave the shed as soon as mixing starts – and to stay out for at least 30 minutes.

Reminding farmers of the dangers of mixing slurry, Camilla Mackey, principal inspector of HSENI’s farm safety team, said:

“Before starting any job on the farm, including slurry mixing, take time to stop, think and safely plan the work ahead.

“Do not take any chances when mixing slurry. As the closed period comes to an end I urge farmers to reflect on the safe slurry mixing code, remembering that just one breath can kill.”

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/mixer – then get out and stay out of the building for as long as possible – at least 30 minutes;
  • Any time you have to go into the building try to make sure that another adult knows what you are doing and can get help if necessary;
  • 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.

In addition, farmers are warned to never: rely on filter type face-masks; use gas monitors as a substitute for working safely; have naked flames near slurry; or stand close to the exhaust of a vacuum tanker when it is being filled.

What to do in emergencies

If you find someone has been overcome during slurry mixing, if possible, stop the pump and get the person to fresh air but do not put yourself at risk in the process, the executive says.

If breathing is weak or stopped, artificial respiration may be effective. Contact the emergency services and seek medical attention immediately.

For those interested, more information about working safely with slurry or general farming health and safety issues can be found on the HSENI website.