Farmers are being warned of the dangers of slurry pits to the local farming community and animals.
Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) along with the Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland have urged farmers to take care in the maintenance and storage of slurry on farms.
In particular, those with livestock near to slurry pits are being asked to check the safety of the pit.
To date this year, there have been 4 incidents across Northern Ireland where animals have fallen into uncovered slurry pits or slurry pits with badly fitted or maintained mixing point covers.
Last year saw 20 incidents and in 2014 there were 15 incidents.
The presence of toxic gases emitted from the slurry means that the consequences can be devastating to not only livestock but also pose a significant risk to famers, farm workers and their families.
NIFRS Group Commander and Farm Safety Lead Fergal Leonard said: “Firefighters have attended 4 incidents of animals falling into slurry pits this year.
“Whilst it is encouraging to see a decrease of this type of incident across Northern Ireland, famers need to be vigilant to keep the farming community safe and livestock safe.
“For Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, public safety is our priority and the best course of action is through prevention. We would appeal for farmers to be vigilant in ensuring the access hatches into slurry pits are secure and well maintained.
“At this time of year, slurry is being removed from the pits and used as fertiliser on the fields. This can be hazardous if the slurry pit is not properly ventilated during mixing operations and storage lids are not replaced immediately after filling a tanker.
“Animals can also come into difficulties when in the fields if potential hazards, such as broken fences, drains and ditches, aren’t properly maintained. This can be both distressing, not only for the animal involved but for the owner of the animal and property. Make sure to close farm gates after use and maintain fencing to keep animals safe and to reduce the risk of livestock getting into difficulty.
Malcolm Downey, who heads up farm safety team at HSENI said: “Before mixing slurry, always stop and think about the job ahead and make preparations to complete the entire task safely. You must cover all the openings and keep children and animals well away during the mixing process. Cover all openings to prevent falls into the slurry tank. Stay out for 30 minutes after starting mixing or after moving or re-directing the pump and try to mix on a windy day.
“Do not take any chances when mixing slurry, you are risking your own life and the lives of others as well as putting your livestock in danger.”
For further information in relation to farm safety, please see www.hseni.gov.uk/farmsafe