Manure produced from pigs is a valuable nutrient source for crops and an important component of the pork industry’s sustainability story. However, manure has a downside. It produces gases that can be harmful to people and pigs as it breaks down.

The four main gases produced from manure are hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide.1 In high concentrations, each of these gases may be harmful and even cause death. Safety must be a top priority when manure is being handled from a manure pit or lagoon.

Producers and manure handling contractors should review and update their Emergency Action Plan related to pumping, storage, handling and toxic gas exposure. Here are five things to consider for handling manure safely.

1. Monitor Air Quality

While pumping and agitating manure, air quality should be monitored. Consider purchasing a hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas monitor for anyone who will be near the area where manure is being pumped. In addition, stay alert for signs of gas exposure including, but not limited to, irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, dizziness and nausea.

Manure handlers should be prepared to call 911 or other resources in their Emergency Action Plan if a toxic gas emergency arises.

2. Properly Ventilate Barns and Tag Doors

Before pumping manure, fully open all ventilation curtains and run ventilation fans at maximum speed. Continue maximum ventilation for at least 30 minutes after pumping is completed.

Ensure all people are out of the barn and tag all doors noting the barn is unsafe for entry during agitation and pumping. No one should enter a building where manure is being pumped and agitated.

3. Follow Confined Space Entry Protocol

According to OSHA, many manure handling and storage facilities are considered a confined space. Never enter a manure storage facility unless someone is standing by and maintaining constant contact with the person in the confined space. Gas levels should be measured prior to entry and monitored continuously when in the confined space. Always wear a properly fitted harness that is attached to a rescue tripod.

4. Reduce the Risk Of Potential Fire

Flash fires can happen when agitating and pumping manure. Reduce the risk by not allowing smoking or open flames near the area where manure is being handled. In addition, turn off electrical power to any non-ventilation equipment and extinguish any pilot lights or other ignition sources in the building.

5. Avoid the Temptation to Rescue

If someone is overcome by gas exposure, do not enter the area to rescue them. Follow the farm’s emergency action plan and call 911 immediately for rescue assistance.

Watch: Manure Know-How — Management and Handling of Manure Safely

Additional Manure Safety Resources

Producers are encouraged to talk with their state’s extension program and other experts with specific questions or concerns regarding manure management safety for their farm.

1. CDC. (2014, June ). CDC . Retrieved from Preventing Deaths of Farm Workers in Manure Pits: 

*External links to content developed by third parties do not necessarily represent the views of the National Pork Board