Reading This Article Could Save Your Life — Rob Meinen, Department of Animal Science
Posted: June 18, 2012
In the case of open-air manure storage pits and ponds there are many hazards to consider. Every manure storage is different. Footing near storages can be hazardous. Steep and slippery slopes that can make getting out of manure storages difficult or impossible. Localized layers of hazardous gases can exist above manure surfaces, especially on hot, humid days with little to no breeze. Increased rate of gas release may occur due to movement, agitation, removal, or addition of manure. This may mean that someone who is ‘treading’ in manure may not have sufficient oxygen to breathe. Finally, response time for adequate emergency actions can be slow due site isolation and remoteness.
Agricultural safety guidelines are admittedly crude in comparison to industrial standards. Dennis Murphy, Davis Hill (both with the Penn State Ag Safety program), Mike Aucoin, Department of Agriculture, and I have put together the following list of safety guidelines to follow.
- Make sure everyone that needs to be near manure storage structures understand the hazards that exist, including the effects that the various gases have on them.
- Make sure the open air manure storage has a fence installed around the perimeter and access gates are locked to keep unauthorized personnel from entering the area.
- The open air storage should have manure drowning hazard signs and no trespassing signs on all sides of the storage.
- If you must go into the fenced area of the open manure storage, wearing a safety harness with life line attached to a safely located solid object or anchor will enhance your chances of rescue.
- Never work alone. The second person’s role is to summon help in an emergency and assist with rescue without entering the storage (more than 50% of confined space deaths occur to rescuers!).
- Rescue equipment, such as a flotation devices and lifelines, should be attached to every manure pump.
- Move slowly around manure storages as the ground can slippery or uneven and may cause a person to trip or stumble. There should be no horseplay near the open manure pit or pumping equipment.
- Always act as if manure depths are deep. Unlike water, you cannot see into manure to judge the bottom surface.
- Bystanders and non-essential workers should stay away from pump out or other accessible areas.
- Explosive gas may be lurking near where agitation or pumping is occurring. No smoking, open flames or sparks should be allowed. If equipment malfunctions during agitating or pumping of the manure, shut all equipment off and remove it from the storage before servicing or repairing.
- If you feel unsure or uncomfortable with what you are getting ready to do near the open manure pit, step back, contact someone and review the situation before proceeding.
- Be prepared to call 911 if an emergency happens. Being prepared means accurately describing the incident, number of victims, and giving specific directions to the site of the emergency.
Further information on manure storage safety can be found at http://www.agsafety.psu.edu/