I know we’re not supposed to use the “f-word” when it comes to our magazine issues – every issue of Manure Manager is supposed to be my favorite. But if you were to really press me, I might admit that the annual safety issue is my favorite.
On one hand, it feels like we’re constantly talking about safety. On the other hand, it feels like we can never talk about it enough. Because accidents keep on happening.
According to Purdue University, 11 accidents involving livestock waste storage facilities were reported in 2022, with eight being fatal. There’s been a general upward trend in such accidents, particularly since 2015. While ag accidents are (tragically) common, manure storage incidents have one uniquely over-indexing: victims tend to be younger. The average age of victims in 2022 was 37, significantly lower than the average age of U.S. farmers, and one of the 2022 victims was a teenager. It’s not just that manure accidents keep taking farm workers from us; it’s that they’re taking them too young.
Storage and transportation are indeed the two biggest areas of concern when it comes to manure safety, due to risks of asphyxiation and crashes (not to mention combustion, as explored in Jack Kazmierski’s feature on page 16). However, in this issue we decided to look at some other aspects of safety.
For one thing, there’s biosecurity. From the smallest family farm to the busiest commercial facilities, biosecurity smarts are essential. The last year has seen HPAI be a constant source of stress for Canada’s poultry producers (the World Organization for Animal Health recently declared the outbreak “resolved” for Canada’s poultry flocks) and now, many farmers are looking over their shoulder, wondering if an outbreak of African Swine Fever Virus, which has not yet made it to North American soil, is not a matter of “if” but “when.” There are many recognized practices that can play a part in the fight against animal diseases, including feed practices and manure management. James Careless gives the rundown on manure management for biosecurity on page 18.
At this year’s North American Manure Expo, we also took the opportunity to add an educational safety event and the Expo’s first-ever high-pressure hose break demonstration. As someone who was there, I can safely say that you don’t understand the power of a hose with a pressure of 90 PSI until you see it up close (and hear it whip through the air). You can see images from the Expo on page 8 and 9, including our focus on safety on page 9.
You know your job well – probably like the back of your hand. But you should never assume that you’ve done something enough times that you can do it safely without all the proper checks and balances. What is more important: saving a few minutes on a task, or coming home at the end of the day to be with your family? •