Wednesday 5 February 2020

Farm Health & Safety- Slurry Management

Open & Closed Periods
As many of you are aware in 2019 the closed period for chemical fertiliser started on the 15th of September15th of October for slurry & farm yard manure on the 1st of November. This meant that chemical fertiliser could not be spread after the 15th of September, slurry after the 15th of October and farm yard manure after the 1st of November. When it comes to the open period for putting out slurry, chemical fertiliser or farm yard manure, Ireland is split into three zones. The three zones with the according areas and open period dates are listed below;

Zone A- 12th of January
Carlow, Cork, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford & Wicklow

Zone B- 15th of January
Clare, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Roscommon, Sligo & Westmeath

Zone C- 31st of January
Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, Antrim, Fermanagh, Derry, Down, Tyrone & Armagh

As of the 1st of February all zones are cleared to spread chemical fertiliser, slurry & farm yard manure according to the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine. Farmers are reminded to not just keep an eye out for dry weather to spread slurry but for heavy rainfall postpone applying slurry, to avoid the risk run off. Slurry should be spread initially on paddocks with low grass covers and paddocks with low Phosphorus (P) & Potassium (K) levels identified through soil sampling. Farmers are also advised to use protected urea this spring when applying chemical fertiliser to avoid the risk of leaching.

Health & Safety
Farmers are also reminded of the dangers around the opened period which they often forget to consider. Drowning and gas poisoning are the two major health and safety problems associated with slurry, it not only affects the farmers but the children and elderly are particularly at 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. Now with slurry spreading season underway farmers need to raise their awareness levels with their family and friends and remain vigilant to the risks involved in slurry spreading. 

It is very important to note that 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.  

Always Obey Safe Agitation Guidelines, these include;
  • Always agitate on windy days.
  • Remove all livestock from slatted shed before agitating.
  • Keep pets under control and away from the working area.
  • Open all doors to slatted sheds.
  • Control access to slatted sheds where slurry is being agitated.
  • Agitate/ Ventilate and stay away for 30 minutes.
  • Work upwind at all times.
  • Never enter a slurry tank, even if it is empty.
  • Keep tank openings secure at all times and control access.
  • If at all possible for the safety of yourself never agitate alone.
  • If the above point is not possible, make sure your phone is charged fully and tell someone where you are and how long you will be gone for.
Some of the information in this article was obtained from the Health & Safety Authority's Website.

For more information on Health & Safety when working with slurry, please follow the below link;