Slurry pit warning evokes memories of Spence family tragedy

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Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) along with the Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland is warning of the dangers of slurry pits to the local farming community and animals.

Farmers are being urged 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 four 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.

This was sadly the case in 2012 when rising Ulster Rugby star and former Wallace High School student Nevin Spence died aged 22 alongside his brother Graham (30) and father Noel (52) following a slurry tank accident at their farm near Hillsborough.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) Group Commander and Farm Safety Lead Fergal Leonard said: “For Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, public safety is our priority and the best course of action is through prevention.

“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.”

Malcolm Downey, who heads up farm safety team at HSENI said: “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.”