slurry store cover© Tim Scrivener

A lethal cocktail of odourless gas has prompted reminders for farmers to take extra care when mixing slurry this autumn.

Slurry gas includes extremely poisonous hydrogen sulphide. At low concentrations it is difficult to smell.

At higher concentrations, it is harder to breathe and causes confusion – and at certain concentrations, just one breath can kill.

See also: Two men killed in farm slurry incident

Mixing slurry can be dangerous – rapidly releasing gas in large quantities as soon as mixing starts.

It is a particular risk in Northern Ireland where slurry is often stored below ground level under slats in farm buildings. But it also poses a risk in other enclosed areas.

Vital pointers

Now Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland has issued 13 tips to help keep farmers and slurry store managers safe.

1. Keep children away from the area at all times when working with slurry.

2. If possible, mix on a windy day.

3. Open all doors.

4. Take all animals out of the building before starting to mix slurry.

5. Use outside mixing points first.

6. If slats are removed, cover exposed areas of the tank beside the pump/mixer to stop anything falling in.

7. Start the pump/mixer – then get out and stay out of the building for as long as possible – at least 30min.

8. If you have to go into the building, make sure that another adult who knows what you are doing stays outside and can get help if needed.

9. If you have to re-enter to move the pump or change the direction of the pump, leave the building as soon as this is done – do not go back in for as long as possible – at least another 30min.

10. Never rely on filter-type face masks.

11. Never use gas monitors as a substitute for working safely.

12. Never have naked flames near slurry, as slurry gas mixture is flammable.

13. Never stand close to the exhaust of a vacuum tanker when it is being filled.

Health and Safety Executive farm safety team leader Malcolm Downey said: “Do not take any chances when mixing slurry, your life may depend on it. Stop and think about the entire job ahead.”

The first half hour is the most dangerous, said Mr Downey.

It is important for farmers to remove any livestock and leave the building as soon as the mixing starts.

It is also vital to keep children away and stay out of the shed for at least 30min after mixing starts.