Slurry spreading season kicks off this week with counties in Zone A allowed to spread as of yesterday. The opening dates for counties in Zones B (January 16) and C (February 1) are also fast approaching.
or many farmers, these dates cannot come quick enough as slatted units are almost at full capacity. While the rush is now on to get tanks emptied, it is prudent now to take a stern look at safety measures you should put in place ahead of this lethal job.
To get an idea of where to start, I spoke with Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), about some of the practical guidelines that should be followed when spreading slurry. Mr Griffin has unfortunately seen many slurry-related farm fatalities, so his advice should be heeded.
He broke his tips into 'before', 'during' and 'after' segments to help keep farmers and their families safe during slurry season.
- Check the weather forecast and ensure there is good air movement if you are going to be agitating or spreading slurry. Ventilation is crucial - open shed doors to get air moving.
- Check the tractor, tanker, agitator and, in particular, the associated PTOs are all in good working order and suitable for the job.
- Ensure that PTOs are not damaged and the U guards are also in place.
- Make a plan for moving livestock and pets to a safe area as they are highly susceptible to dangerous fumes that will be released once agitation starts.
- Source safety cones and tape for access egress points.
- Set up agitator so it is safe while attaching it to the three-point linkage.
- Establish an exclusion zone for the agitation process using cones and tape.
- Always agitate and stay up wind of agitation process to ensure your own safety. Let someone know where you are and what you are doing.
- Start agitation and then stay away for 30 minutes.
- Ensure that others are aware of the work going on and that they, too, stay away.
- Don't look into tank to check agitation; one lungful of deadly slurry gas is enough to cause you to collapse and fall in unconscious.
- Never attempt to go into the tank after an animal or pet as you will certainly be overcome by gases.
- Ensure agitation points have safety grids and are covered while not being actively used between loads. Never leave an opening unguarded as people will inevitably fall in.
- Set up the tractor and tanker in such a way that the tanker will not move when a load is taken on.
- Consider safety on the road; turn on the amber flashing light and control speed particularly during cornering.
- The golden rule is don't enter the tank for any reason, including to sweep slurry out of the corners, as the deadly hydrogen sulphide gases are heavier than air and can come to rest at the base of the tank.
- Replace covers and make all agitation points fully secure once you are finished.
- Reverse park equipment and store the agitator safely, ensuring its stability if it is to be parked up for a long time.