A 31-year older worker was discovered unconscious at a farm in Vickery, Ohio. It was later determined the worker became unresponsive due to overexposure to hydrogen sulfide gas emanating from the pig manure used for fertilizer later. Investigators found the worker died when he inhaled too much of the gas, which was rapidly absorbed by his lungs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is currently investigating this incident.
Manure storage facilities have become more common in agriculture and with that, more deaths were farmers and workers have asphyxiated from toxic gases that come from the manure product in spreader tanks or underground pits. Manure typically contains hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane. When pits are pumped, some or all of the gases can be rapidly released from the manure products and may either be toxic or displace the oxygen in the surrounding area, causing workers or animals to suffocate.
OSHA Just Cited the Vickery Farm Last Month For Safety Violations
Just last month, OSHA issued a citation to W. E. Soil Enhancement on the 18th for three serious safety violations following the death of a worker in October. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, agriculture is one of the more dangerous occupations in the U.S. The industry saw 143 reported deaths in 2014.
Given that symptoms caused by overexposure to hydrogen sulfide can begin to rapidly incapacitate a worker, it is important that employers in the agriculture industry work to educate employees on the safe practices of working with such a product. The odors that emanate from manure are not only disagreeable, they can in fact be deadly.
Employers must ensure that their farm workers are protected from these gases by providing respiratory protection gear and properly training workers on hazard communication. Farm workers should be effectively able to evaluate respiratory hazards. Additionally, employers must ensure that storage structures have no leaks and the pumping equipment can be easily and quickly removed for repairs.
Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC is a workers' compensation law firm that helps those who have been injured on the job in the Columbus, Zanesville and Newark areas of Ohio.