Are You at Risk While Pumping Out Your Manure Storage System?

Without throwing out the “here’s your sign” card, the simple answer to the question posed in the title of this article is, yes! Many producers know and understand the risk associated with confined manure handling systems but unfortunately accidents and deaths still occur because unwarranted risks are taken as manure is being handled and removed from the confined manure handling systems.

Ask yourself this: does every employee understand the risks associated with confined manure handling systems? Have they received proper training when dealing with confined manure handling systems? Do you have the appropriate hazard signage posted near the confined manure handling system warning people of the dangers? Do you have the appropriate safety gear available and have you provided instruction to employees on using the equipment? Do your employees have the ability to communicate location directions in an emergency 911 call or have they received training? These may seem like simple things, but unfortunately they often go overlooked. We assume that everyone should know the risks and know what to do in an emergency. Taking the time to provide proper safety equipment, while simultaneously educating employees and family members about the correct safety protocols around confined manure handling systems helps prevent deaths and accidents.

Understanding the Risks
So what is the risk with confined manure handling systems? Understanding that there is risk associated with manure pits and manure lagoons is important. They both produce toxic gases as the manure undergoes anaerobic digestive fermentation. The gases produced and the characteristics of each are given below:

Besides understanding the various types of gases that can be produced in confined manure handling systems, you should also follow these guidelines when working around confined manure handling systems.

Manure Pits
These are enclosed structures equipped with ventilation systems. They are often found in dairies as manure is pumped out to a lagoon or in confined swine operation buildings or certain types of beef finishing operations that utilize a confined building.

Manure Lagoons
They also produce toxic gases in localized layers which, especially on hot, humid days with little breeze can cause a health hazard. These gases are released more readily when lagoons are agitated to remove manure to be incorporated as fertilizer into the fields. They often have a thick liquid, floating crust which can make swimming and buoyancy difficult if you were to slip or fall into the lagoon. Additional safety guidelines for manure lagoons are as follows:

Safety is Essential
Safety is not a choice, it is something that we need to practice on a daily basis in agriculture. Enclosed manure hold facilities are one of many areas in livestock operations that have inherent risks. However, by following these recommended safety guidelines and training all involved we can be safer and live to see another day with loved ones and family.

Source: South Dakota State University 

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