Slurry and Water Safety


Slurry Signage

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Slurry presents two particular safety and health problems - drowning and gas poisoning. Drowning is by far the most common cause of death involving slurry. Children and the elderly are at particular risk. In the period 2000-2010, 30% of child fatal accidents on farms were caused by drowning in slurry or water. In the same period 8% of deaths to elderly farmers were caused by drowning.

Smell is no indicator of the absence of gas, as many gases are odourless. Hydrogen sulphide has a 'rotten egg' smell at low levels, but cannot be smelt at higher levels. High levels can be released when slurry is agitated. One breath or lung-full at this level causes instant death.

  • Open slurry tanks should be protected by an unclimbable fence or wall at least 1.8 metres high, with locked gates
  • When the tank has to be emptied, consider having an adequately constructed access platform with safety rails
  • Covered or slatted tanks require access manholes that children cannot open easily. Fit a safety grid below the manhole to give secondary protection. All slurry tanks should be adequately fenced
  • Evacuate all livestock and make sure no person or animal is in or near the building
  • Do not allow slurry to rise within 300mm of the slats or tank covers
  • Avoid smoking and naked flames as the gas mixture can be highly flammable
  • Never enter a tank for any reason - gases can build up and remain in partially emptied tanks above the slurry
  • Never enter the slurry tank or any confined space unless you are wearing suitable breathing apparatus and/ or a harness attached to a lifeline controlled by at least two other adults positioned outside of the area
  • Put up warning signs to warn of the dangers when working with slurry
  • Scrape holes on outdoor lagoons should be adequately protected
  • Cover all slurry tank manhole openings
  • Beware of the risk of back injury if you need to lift slats in the shed
  • Agricultural contractors must be aware of the dangers of working with slurry and should ensure that they work safely at all times
  • Use outdoor agitation points where possible - one lung-full of slurry gas can kill
  • Only agitate where there is good air movement
  • Evacuate and ventilate before you agitate
  • Open all doors and outlets to provide a draught
  • Avoid vigorous agitation in confined spaces
  • At least two people should be present and should stand up-wind
  • Keep all people away from the agitation point for 30 minutes after starting agitation
  • Keep children and elderly persons away from the area when agitating
  • Never stand over slats or near tank access points when agitation is in progress
  • Guard the PTO on the slurry tanker and agitator– do not use unless correctly guarded. A high proportion of PTO entanglements occur when using slurry tankers




Drowning in Water

Drowning is by far the most common cause of death involving slurry. Children and the elderly are at particular risk. Several people were drowned in water on farms in recent years.

  • Fence off water hazards
  • Take a cautious approach when working near water tanks, ponds, rivers or lakes
  • Take particular care with children who are particularly at risk
  • Put up warning signs to warn of the dangers
  • Follow the Farm Safely advice from Irish Water Safety