10 Tips for Manure Pit Safety

Manure storage systems on dairy farms can be hazardous for people and livestock. Pits within buildings or directly beneath livestock are considered the most dangerous. The most common hazards associated with manure storage are drowning and manure gases, which include gases that are toxic (hydrogen sulfide), corrosive (ammonia), asphyxiant (carbon dioxide), and explosive (methane). Dangers are most significant when manure is being agitated or pumped out and after emptying (if pit is covered).

Dr. Dennis Murphy and Dr. David Douphrate suggest the following tips to help minimize hazards associated with manure storage systems:

  1. Keep people and animals out of buildings.
  2. Provide strong, constant ventilation during agitation and emptying. 
  3. Do not fill your storage to capacity – leave one to two feet of air space to accommodate concentrations of gases.
  4. Keep the agitator below the liquid surface.
  5. Prevent gas from flowing back into buildings by using gas traps in pipelines emptying into storages.
  6. Prohibit smoking, open flames, or spark-producing activities in the immediate vicinity.
  7. If someone collapses in a pit, provide ventilation into the storage and wait for rescue personnel with the proper equipment. Do not attempt to enter the pit without a self-contained breathing apparatus.
  8. Fence uncovered storages at ground level.
  9. Do not leave ladders leaning against aboveground tank storages.
  10. Place warning signs near open storages and aboveground tanks; a rescue pole and rope should be kept in the area.
Source: Dennis Murphy and David Douphrate, “Dairy worker safety and health: Manure pit safety,” Progressive Dairyman Extra, June 21, 2013.

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