Monday 01 October 2012
The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has reiterated advice that farmers should not enter slurry tanks, following the deaths of Ulster rugby player Nevin Spence, aged 22, his brother Graham, aged 30, and 58-year-old father Noel, after being overcome by poisonous fumes from an underground slurry tank at the family farm in Co Down last Saturday.
Eleven HSENI safety recommendations for mixing slurry include a warning not to enter a tank unless wearing breathing apparatus with its own air supply, and connected by harness and lifeline to two people outside.
It also advises that pocket-sized meters are available to measure levels of the poisonous hydrogen sulphide gas. According to the health and safety officials, slurry should only be mixed in ventilated areas and farmers should not rely on smell to detect the presence of gas, because exposure to hydrogen sulphide inactivates the sense of smell.
It warned that some of the gases released when slurry is disturbed can be dangerous to humans and animals, and stated that there have been "many serious incidents" including several fatalities.
Harry Sinclair, the President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), said, "Hydrogen sulphide is released during the mixing of slurry. It’s dangerous and there’s no smell attached to it, so you don’t actually have any advance warning that it’s there."
* IFA President John Bryan said the farming community was shocked by the tragic deaths of the three members of the Spence family.
"On behalf of our members, I want to convey our deepest sympathies to the family following this terrible accident."
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