Manure Manager

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Tools of the trade: Fencing, barriers and loading safety

September 19, 2023  by  Bree Rody

Knowing what to do in case of an emergency or incident is crucial. However, prevention is key, and in many cases, maintenance plays a critical role in that.

According to the USDA NRCS’s manure storage maintenance and safety factsheet, safety plans are an essential part of ensuring that all farm workers get home to their families every night. Besides some of the more action-specific safety measures discussed in our eNews this week, we wanted to shine a light on some of the USDA’s more preventative measures involving technical specs and maintenance.


Fences help keep unwitting victims away from hazards. Check that your safety fence is properly maintained at the right place.

  • Check gates to verify they close properly and can be latched and locked.
  • Tighten loose fencing and repair damaged sections.
  • Ensure your fence meets the minimum height requirement. Height requirements differ by area but is usually more than 4.5 feet.
  • Include appropriate signage such as “Drowning hazard,” “During agitation, deadly gases possible,” etc.

Loading access areas

Once the gates have to open for vehicles and equipment, more risks can be introduced. Ensure

  • Verify that a safety bar or cage is installed, is solid and properly anchored. If not, replace or repair.
  • When not in use, there must be a separate gate in front of the equipment barrier in order to limit human or animal access.
  • Verify that the gate can close and be latched when not in use. Make sure that the maximum square opening does not exceed six inches by six inches or four inches between vertical members.
  • Loading is only to be done at the designated push-off locations.
  • Consider installing a new curb (at least 24 inches high) and top with a fence higher than the equipment can reach, or install a curb located 30 inches from the tank wall to eliminate the possibility of lifting manure over the fence.
  • Discuss your emergency manure loading plan for materials (waste feed, snowpack, or frozen manure) that can’t be loaded or pushed in at your normal access points with all equipment operators.
  • Consider additional push-off structures that can accommodate these materials.
  • Provide short-term storage location(s) elsewhere. Do not store in a watercourse or water flow path.
  • If you plan to load at the agitation or pumpout location, keep the load low going over the wall. Add an extra wheel barrier or swinging bar across opening to keep equipment from entering. Make sure animals are not in the area and the gate is closed and locked after the operation has been completed.
  • Make sure all animals are out of the area when the unloading access gates are opened or the lids are removed from an access hole.
  • After placing the pump, secure gates or plates around equipment to minimize access to storage.
  • If your pump controls require standing next to pump and/or behind the power unit, consider extending the controls to move them and the operator a safe distance away from the manure storage or access point.

As always, review your safety plan prior to agitating, transferring, and pumping manure out of a manure storage. This is especially critical when you have inexperienced personnel involved in the process.

For the full list, click here.

This article is part of the 2023 Safety Week series


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