Know Risks of Pits (News Release)

Farm workers risk their lives every time they enter a manure pit. Dangerous concentrations of gases that can kill within seconds continue to claim lives every year in Iowa.

The most alarming aspect is that manure pit incidents often result in multiple fatalities when rescuers become victims, too. Consider this situation, which occurred in another state four years ago:

On a late summer afternoon, a farm worker entered a 10-foot-deep manure pit on his family's farm for repairs. While attempting to climb out of the pit, he was overcome and fell to the bottom. His 15-year-old nephew then tried to rescue him, and also collapsed. The boy's father, his cousin, and his grandfather who owned the farm, entered the pit one by one, attempting to rescue the boy and his uncle. Tragically, all five family members died.

Hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide are natural products in the decomposition of animal wastes. The potential for these gases to reach dangerous levels in a manure pit is always present, however, it's increased during warm weather or when weather conditions change.

Farm workers might take risks because they may have entered the pit in the past and had no problems. However, conditions can change quickly and dangerous gases can develop within seconds.

It's important for farm operators who have manure pit systems to be aware of the risks, and to make sure everyone else in the operation understands them, too. Signs should be posted in the area that can be understood by persons who cannot speak English, or by children who cannot read.

For more information, contact the ______ County Extension office for a free copy of a new SAFE FARM publication, Manure Storage Poses Invisible Risks, Pm-1518k. Your extension field agricultural engineer also can make recommendations to make manure pit systems safer.

This news release was distributed by Iowa State University Extension as part of the Safe Farm Program. Safe Farm promotes health and safety in agriculture. It is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Iowa State University, and a network of groups that serve Iowa farm workers and their families. Distribution date: November 1993.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More