The Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) is urging farmers to exercise care and vigilance when working with slurry as the open season for spreading gets underway.

The closed season for spreading organic manures came to an end at midnight on January 31.

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has said slurry is one of the four main causes of death and serious injury on Northern Ireland’s farms and that, over recent years, incidents involving slurry have claimed several lives.

LMC interim chief executive, Colin Smith, said the end of the closed period will have brought a welcome reprieve for farmers facing issues with slurry storage capacity, but that farmers need to keep safety in mind.

“Now, as action can be taken to alleviate storage pressures, I would urge all farmers to keep safety at the forefront of their minds.

“Mixing slurry can be very dangerous, with gasses released quickly and silently.

“Slurry gas includes the extremely poisonous gas, hydrogen sulphide, which can prohibit sense of smell, even in low concentration, it is therefore difficult to detect and can prove fatal," he said.


LMC is a member of the Farm Safety Partnership and is promoting safe practices through the inclusion of standards which promote best practice within the Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (NIBL FQAS).

“We have been proactive in encouraging farmers to store animal manure and farm effluents appropriately, taking into consideration necessary safety precautions which help safeguard both farmers, farm workers and animals,” Smith said.

“This forms a condition of membership for NIBL FQAS participants and inspectors actively check that storage facilities do not pose any risk to humans, animals or the environment.”

Smith advised farmers to take time to consider the risks before undertaking work with slurry.

“By taking steps to improve safety many risks can be either eliminated or minimised,” he said.

“When it comes to mixing slurry, ensure that animals are out of the building and once agitating begins get out and stay out for 30 minutes.”


The HSENI has compiled tips for farmers when working with slurry to ensure they do so safely.

There are cases of farmers who have been overcome by gas released from slurry during mixing and hundreds of animals have died in similar circumstances, the health and safety executive said.

Incidences of drowning have also occurred where people who have been exposed to the fumes have fallen through openings into tanks.

The HSENI is urging farmers to “Stop and Think!” before they start working with or near slurry.

The HSENI’s advice is:

  • Think about the job you are going to do and make preparations to do the entire task safely;
  • Think about vital preparations – check that the tractor/tanker are in good repair, brakes and tyres in good condition and if they have to be positioned above the tank, make sure the slats can take the weight, particularly if using new, heavier machinery;
  • Think about ensuring all openings are covered to prevent a fall into the slurry tank;
  • Think about keeping animals and children well away when working with slurry.

“Remember, slurry gas is heavier than air and during mixing will settle in a cloud over the top of the slurry – bending down into the gas cloud for even a few moments can cause unconsciousness. Covered openings save lives,” the HSENI said.

“The risk is variable and difficult to predict. You may not have noticed any problems until now but the gas is always there during mixing.

“A combination of conditions can easily result in you and your animals suddenly being in serious danger.”