With the closed period for spreading slurry starting on October 15 and as slurry mixing intensifies, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is reminding farmers to take extra care.

Over recent years, incidents involving slurry have tragically claimed the lives of a number of people in Northern Ireland, including that of a child.

Mixing slurry can be a particularly dangerous job as slurry gas is released very quickly, and in large quantities, as soon as the mixing starts. The first 30 minutes are the most dangerous, so farmers must leave the shed as soon as the mixing starts - and stay out for at least 30 minutes.

Slurry gas is a mixture of gases, including the extremely poisonous hydrogen sulphide. Even a low concentration of hydrogen sulphide can knock out your sense of smell so you won’t even know it’s there. At higher concentrations you will rapidly find it harder to breathe and become confused - at high levels, just one breath can kill.

Appealing to farmers to follow the advice on offer, Malcolm Downey, who heads up the farm safety team at HSENI, said: “Before you start mixing slurry, always stop and think about the job ahead and plan to do it safely. Cover all the openings and keep children and animals well away during the mixing process.

“Try to mix on a windy day and stay out of the building for at least 30 minutes after the mixing starts, and every time you move the pump or change the direction of mixing.

“The dangers of slurry gas are well-known, so don’t ignore safety - you are risking your own life and the lives of others, as well as putting your livestock in danger. Always follow the slurry mixing code and remember that with slurry gas, just one breath can kill.”

The slurry mixing code:

·keep children away from the area at all times when working with slurry

·if possible, mix on a windy day

·open all doors and windows

·take all animals out of the building before starting to mix slurry

·use outside mixing points first

·if slats are removed, cover exposed areas of the tank beside the pump/mixer to stop anything falling in

·start the pump/mixer – then get out and stay out of the building for as long as possible - at least 30 minutes

·any time you have to go into the building try to make sure that another adult knows what you are doing and can get help if necessary

·if you have to re-enter to move the pump or change the direction of the pump, leave the building as soon as this is done – do not go back in for as long as possible – at least another 30 minutes


·rely on filter type facemasks

·use gas monitors as a substitute for working safely

·have naked flames near slurry, as slurry gas mixture is flammable

·stand close to the exhaust of a vacuum tanker when it is being filled