Manure pits have become an increasingly necessary part of many agriculture and livestock operations. But manure storage comes with its own set of risks and hazards, like build-up of toxic gases, drowning, and engulfment. Every year numerous death and injury reports are recorded involving manure pits. Even more tragically, many of these reports involve multiple fatalities of family members and friends trying to rescue one or more victims.
That’s why it is important to have the proper precautions in place and the right personal protective equipment available.
Manure Gases: The Invisible Hazard
The first safety measure to consider is simple prevention. Lagoons should be surrounded by a fence to prevent children, non-employees, and other non-essential personnel from gaining access to the pit. Gates should be securely locked, as well, to prevent anyone from entering the area.
Powered blowers or fans are also a necessary requirement when working in manure pits. Agitation and pump-out periods release the toxic gases that cause most of the deaths and injuries in pits. During these times, if you must enter a pit, a self-contained breathing apparatus must be worn, as well as a safety harness with lifeline. At least two other personnel should be on-hand to assist in a rescue, if necessary. At no point should a rescuer enter a pit without the proper breathing equipment themselves, otherwise they run the risk of becoming a victim themselves.
Knowing the proper methods of working in and around manure pits should be a part of your operation's Emergency Action Plan. Ensuring that all your employees and family members are properly trained helps reduce the risk that one or more of them become victims. Taking a little extra time before you get started improves the chances of a better outcome if (and when) something goes wrong.