Last year, three men in Ohio died after entering a manure pit. Even cattle aren’t immune, as a farm hand and six cattle perished at their manure pit in Wisconsin back in 2016.

Manure pits are crucial to everyday farm operations. They generate much-needed fertilizer and material needed for farmers to prepare their lands for the spring planting season, helping crops grow and thrive. However, despite its boons, manure pit is dangerous for the noxious gases they emit.

Dangerous Gases

Manure being processed in the pit goes through anaerobic digestive fermentation to become usable fertilizer. However, during this process, it starts to release and accumulate numerous toxic gases.

  • Methane – An odorless and flammable gas. The danger begins in concentrations of 15 to 30%. In this level of concentration, methane can displace oxygen. Personnel working in the manure pit may not even realize that they are being suffocated before it’s too late.
  • Hydrogen Sulfide – This gas has a characteristic “rotten egg” odor which can alert farm hands of danger, but this usually happens in low concentrations. High concentrations can lead to their sense of smell becoming paralyzed. This gas is also heavier than air, often settling around the bottom of the pit. Anyone working low on the manure pit may become suffocated.
  • Carbon Dioxide – While it’s a common gas in our atmosphere, high concentrations can also cause suffocation, leading to a distinct “cherry red” appearance in people who have been exposed to too much of it. It can lead to drowsiness, headaches, and nausea.
  • Ammonia – The sharp odor of ammonia will make it familiar to anyone who has done cleaning around the home. But the concentrated ammonia levels in a manure pit can lead to eye and nose irritation and may damage the lungs.

Not only are all these gases dangerous upon human inhalation, but in a confined space, the combination of gases can become explosive. Therefore, beyond just ensuring that all farm personnel working in and around the pit are wearing protective respiratory equipment, it’s also crucial to ensure that no flammable or incendiary items are anywhere near the pit to prevent an explosion.

KC Supply supports ensuring the safety and protection of all workers in the farming industry. Contact us today to learn about our full range of safety equipment and gear.