The Deadly, Smelly Workplace Hazard Lurking on Ohio Farms
Ohio farm workers may suffer life-threatening health problems or death when exposed to gases produced by livestock manure. These gases include hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and methane. Gases produced by manure are especially dangerous in enclosed areas.
Last year, a farm worker died from exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas while helping fill a tank full of liquid pig manure. According to a coworker, the man was on top of a semi-truck, monitoring the progress as the tank filled.
After the tank finished filling, he was supposed to climb back down from the semi-truck and tell another worker to shut off the flow. He never came back down, and his coworkers later found him unconscious and unresponsive on top of the semi-truck.
How Dangerous is Hydrogen Sulfide Gas for Ohio Farm Workers?
Although there are several gases produced by manure, hydrogen sulfide is the deadliest. This gas has an unmistakable “rotten egg” smell. Depending on the concentration of gas, workers exposed to hydrogen sulfide may experience symptoms ranging from nausea, headache, dizziness, collapse, rapid unconsciousness or death. In high concentrations, unconsciousness can occur in seconds.
Workers who operate around manure should undergo training to handle hydrogen sulfide workplace hazards. They should know how to monitor the air for this gas, and how to use protective equipment. In addition, workers should know the symptoms of exposure, and how to use ventilation systems to reduce exposure. All workplaces operating around hazardous gases should have emergency rescue procedures in place.
Hydrogen sulfide gas is also found in the mining, pulp and paper processing, rayon manufacturing and oil and gas industries.