Stay safe this slurry season!

As the 2024 slurry season kicks off, Northern Ireland’s countryside springs to life, with rural roads filled with the industrious sights and sounds of tractors and slurry tankers.
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It heralds the start of a critical period when the management of slurry becomes a crucial task for farmers across the region. It’s a time that demands not only skill and attention, but also a keen awareness of the risks involved.

Slurry is recognised as both a precious resource for fertilising grassland and crops, and one of the most hazardous substances that farmers work with, and its management requires meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to the highest safety standards.

It is also one of the four main causes of death and serious injury on Northern Ireland’s farms, with one inhalation of the hydrogen sulphide gas released during mixing enough to kill an average person or animal.

A farmer spreading slurry in field. Pic: Belinda Sullivan/ShutterstockA farmer spreading slurry in field. Pic: Belinda Sullivan/Shutterstock
A farmer spreading slurry in field. Pic: Belinda Sullivan/Shutterstock

Given the severe consequences of accidents during slurry season, including personal injury, environmental damage, and financial loss, it’s crucial to remain vigilant and ensure adequate insurance coverage throughout this period.

Each step in the slurry management chain carries inherent risks and AbbeyAutoline, as a longstanding member of the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) Farm Safety Partnership, promotes the highest possible health and safety standards on farms, ensuring that every phase of slurry management is approached with utmost caution and care.

The rush to commence work often leads to the oversight of crucial safety steps. Ensuring that all slurry equipment is serviced and maintained to the highest standards is not just a recommendation but a necessity. This extends to tractors and accompanying tankers, whose brakes and indicators must be visible and fully operational.

Proper planning, as outlined by HSENI, dictates that both farmers and livestock should stay clear of the area during the initial, most dangerous 30 minutes of slurry mixing.

The storage of slurry results in the production of dangerous gases such as methane, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and hydrogen sulphide. Particularly, hydrogen sulphide, with its deceptive rotten egg smell at low concentrations, becomes odourless and deadly at high levels, making it a silent but fatal threat.

The transportation of slurry presents its own set of challenges, particularly when crossing public roads. Measures such as brightly coloured ramps over umbilical hoses and appropriate road signage are crucial to prevent accidents. The residue of slurry or manure on roads poses a significant skid risk to traffic, underlining the importance of immediate cleanup to prevent accidents by road users.

The high-risk potential during the slurry season makes comprehensive insurance coverage indispensable. AbbeyAutoline emphasises the importance of Public Liability and Employers Liability insurance. These policies are vital in covering potential issues with contractors and claims made by the public. However, farmers must remember that such policies do not cover incidents impacting the policyholder directly, making Personal Accident Cover equally essential.

The handling and spreading of slurry, if not managed meticulously, can lead to severe environmental repercussions, including water contamination, ecosystem disruption, and soil degradation. Farmers must adhere strictly to regulatory guidelines and best practices to prevent spills or leakage, and environmental liability insurance offers a safety net against potential legal and clean-up costs arising from accidental environmental damage.

An accident during slurry season can disrupt your farm operations but the appropriate insurance cover can provide financial security due to an unforeseen accident.

As the slurry season unfolds, it’s crucial to remember that safety and preparedness are the keys to a successful and accident-free season. We encourage the farming community to stay vigilant, adhere to safety guidelines, and ensure that their insurance coverage meets the unique needs of their operations.

AbbeyAutoline’s dedicated agricultural team is always ready to provide advice, support, and tailored insurance solutions to help safeguard farms this slurry season.

For further information or advice on Agricultural Insurance please contact the specialist Farm Team at AbbeyAutoline, 08000 66 55 44 or visit insurance.