Slurry Spreading Safety Tips for Farmers in the UK

by Hellen Greek
(Lancashire, UK)

Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries in the UK. According to the Health and Safety Executive, between 40 and 50 farmers lose their lives in accidents at work every year, which is nearly the equivalent of one death a week. While less than 1.5% of all workers are employed in the agricultural sector, the industry sees between 15% and 20% of all fatal accidents at work every year, with self-reported illness rates also surpassing the industry average.

In the last five years, 9.6 agricultural workers out of every 100,000 died, with this the highest figure of any agricultural sector in the UK.

One of the most dangerous activities in farming is slurry spreading, and as the slurry spreading season commenced on February 1st, workplace safety standards in agriculture are in the spotlight.

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is urging agricultural workers to "stop and think SAFE" during the slurry spreading season. It noted that too many people have died in Northern Ireland in workplace accidents involving slurry, with other people suffering from health problems after being exposed to the gases slurry releases. Hundreds of animals have also died as a result of exposure to slurry.

Slurry gases can contain ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide and methane. Hydrogen sulphide in particular can be very dangerous; when people breathe in a high concentration of it, their sense of smell can disappear, they can struggle to breathe and they can become disorientated. Just one or two lungfuls of a high concentration of the gas can lead to unconsciousness and death, and facemasks will not provide any protection.

People who enter slurry tanks must be protected with breathing equipment that is fitted with its own air supply. Health and safety laws call for such a dangerous job to be only conducted by properly trained staff members. All personal protective equipment should be maintained properly, and the person inside the tank must be connected by a lifeline and harness to two people outside the tank.

Personal, business and faming financial services firm NFU Mutual held a workplace safety course for farmers in Northern Ireland in Ballymoney on February 5th. The course, which provided attendees with a Vocational Qualification in Agriculture and Production Horticulture, is targeted at people who work in the agricultural sector and is hoped to reduce the number of tragic workplace accidents the agricultural setting sees.

In April 2013, NFU Mutual research revealed that every month, more than 10,000 people who work on agricultural settings such as farms are nearly involved in an accident at work that could lead to physical injury. A poll of more than 1,500 people who live in the country found that 2.13% experienced a 'near miss' in the last year, or the equivalent of 131,200 people when applied across the whole country.

This indicates that the sector sees far too many near misses, and that employers that do not adhere to health and safety laws are likely to see their luck run out.

Hellen researches personal injury claims and other accident at work compensation claims on behalf of a team of Lancashire no win no fee solicitors. He likes the Springtime, long walks on the beach, and feeding the squirrels in the park, and one day would like to write a best-selling novel. He has already written the first few pages several times.

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