Manure applicators reminded of H2S dangers
October 13, 2016, Winnipeg, Man – A prevention consultant with SAFE Work Manitoba is advising those involved with the handling of livestock manure fertilizer to be aware of the potential dangers posed by exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas.
A number of fatal accidents involving the handling of livestock manure fertilizer in Canada and the U.S., including two recent deaths in Quebec, have drawn attention to the risk associated with the handling of livestock manure.
Jeff Shaw, a prevention consultant with SAFE Work Manitoba, says hydrogen sulfide poses the greatest risk.
“When we talk about manure gases we often talk about hydrogen sulfide, methane and ammonia,” he says. “Those are the main three that we deal with on the farm and each of those gasses pose health threats to humans and livestock, especially at high concentrations.”
“I want to focus a little more on hydrogen sulfide as it is the most dangerous and usually the least forgiving of the manure gasses. This is the manure gas that you often hear about when multiple fatalities occur in a single event.”
“These incidents typically occur when a person enters a confined space and they don’t know that hydrogen sulfide levels are at dangerous levels.”
“When that person collapses or doesn’t return, often another person will try to save the victim and they as well will succumb to the toxic gas if they are not equipped with the proper equipment and procedures.
Hydrogen sulfide is heavier than air so typically it’s found in low-lying areas and just above the surface of manure in storage areas.”
“When manure is undisturbed the release of the hydrogen sulfide is actually quite low but, when the manure is agitated, the release of hydrogen sulfide increases dramatically.”
“Unconsciousness and death can occur at high concentrations so it’s not something that should be taken lightly.”
Shaw says always assume these gasses are present when entering any manure tank or pit, maintain adequate ventilation, especially during agitation, ensure workers are equipped with a self contained breathing apparatus when entering confined spaces and never try to rescue someone who’s unconscious without proper personal protective equipment and training.