Minister warns of dangers of slurry mixing

Stormont Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill INTT5013-619OC
Stormont Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill INTT5013-619OC

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today warned farmers to stay safe when mixing slurry.

The Minister said: “Slurry gas is very dangerous, even lethal, so I urge farmers to be responsible for their own and their families’ safety. I cannot over-emphasise the danger in not following recommended safety advice. When mixing slurry, stay out of the mixing building for at least half an hour. Just one breath of slurry gas can cause serious injury or even death.”

The Minister was speaking as a new report revealed that only 18% of farmers surveyed said they normally wait the recommend half an hour before returning to the mixing building. The survey of 100 farmers, undertaken the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI), also revealed that 14% said they waited for only five minutes or even less before returning.

Minister O’Neill said: “These figures demonstrate that some farmers are ignoring sound advice and needlessly putting their lives at risk. It concerns me deeply that so many of our farmers underestimate the dangers. Slurry gas is a mixture of gases, the most dangerous of which is hydrogen sulphide which extremely poisonous. In high concentrations, it cannot be detected through smell. It causes difficulty in breathing by displacing the air in a person’s lungs and it affects the nervous system. A few breaths can cause collapse, serious injury, even death.”

The Minister emphasised the key advice to farmers when mixing slurry: keep children away from the area at all times; if possible, mix on a windy day; open all doors and windows; take all animals out of the building; use outside mixing points first; if slats are removed, cover exposed areas of the tank beside the pump/mixer; after starting the pump/mixer, get out and stay out of the building for at least 30 minutes; never rely on filter type facemasks; do not use hydrogen sulphide gas monitors as a substitute for safe working practices: never allow naked flames near slurry, as the gas mixture is flammable and never stand close to the exhaust of a vacuum tanker when it is being filled.

In relation to spreading of slurry, the Minister also stressed the importance of protecting water quality and meeting the requirements of the Nitrates Action Programme.

Minister O’Neill said “Although the closed period has ended, slurry can only be spread from 1 February if soil and weather conditions are suitable. For grass growth to start, soil temperatures need to reach about six degrees C. Spreading slurry in the right conditions and when grass and crops are growing ensures valuable nutrients are used efficiently and helps to minimise the risk of water pollution.”

The Minister concluded: “The safety advice is simple, straightforward and it could be the difference between life and death. My message is clear: stop, think and stay safe when working with slurry.”