Farmers warned over hidden dangers from confined spaces on farms

Warning issued on foot of a request from the coroner

This entry, known as Slurrysafe, is a Waterford-made invention designed by Alan and Colette Martin from Ballyduff Upper. It is aimed at reducing risk when working on or near open slurry pits - an everyday part of farming that has unfortunately become a rea
This entry, known as Slurrysafe, is a Waterford-made invention designed by Alan and Colette Martin from Ballyduff Upper. It is aimed at reducing risk when working on or near open slurry pits - an everyday part of farming that has unfortunately become a rea
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Exposure to dangerous gases in confined spaces such as in a grain silo, slurry pit or storage tank is a real risk in modern farming.

The Health and Safety Authority have launched new publication on ‘Confined Spaces in Agriculture’, which explains the dangers associated with confined spaces and sets out practical steps on how to prevent life threatening incidents.

Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships Minister Pat Breen TD highlighted that farming is still the most dangerous job in Ireland with an average of 21 deaths a year in workplace incidents and 207 farming fatalities in the last decade (2009-2018).

"While there have been some improvements with 15 farm related deaths in 2018, every death is one too many, and leads to devastation for the loved ones and communities left behind.

"I would urge all those involved in working on farms to read the HSA’s new publication and to familiarise themselves with the dangers of working in confined spaces.”

There have been nine deaths in confined spaces on Irish farms in the last five years. 

On foot of a request from the coroner into one of these fatalities in a bulk storage tank, the HSA compiled this new publication to help farmers identify confined spaces on their farms, and to warn farmers of the possible risks of exposure to dangerous gases in confined spaces.

HSA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Sharon McGuinness, said any confined space on a farm poses a potentially life-threatening hazard but the threat may not be apparent until it's too late.

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“We are very concerned that farmers generally don’t recognise or consider the dangers of confined spaces.

“Confined spaces such as silos, vats, tanks, wells, slurry pits and other enclosed or partly enclosed structures, can very quickly lead to suffocation and death if a person is exposed to dangerous vapours, toxic gases, dust or low oxygen levels.

“The safest approach with any confined space is to avoid going in there in the first place. If work must be done in a confined space, it should only be carried out by trained professionals.

“The message we want people to take away from our exhibit is that these places are not somewhere people should work or children should play,” Dr McGuinness concluded.

With 14 confirmed farm fatalities so far this year, the HSA will be providing live safety demonstrations at the ploughing championship on key issues to help reduce farm fatalities and injuries.

Online Editors


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