Firefighters on manure pit rescue simulator

Each one of the nearly 3,600 dairy farms in New York has some kind of manure storage. Manure pits are dangerous confined spaces that, without the right precautions, pose a serious health and safety risk to farmers and farm workers.

Franklin County, New York, Nationwide Farm Certified agent Star Bashaw knows without awareness of those necessary precautions, it’s just a matter of time until a manure pit tragedy happens in her community. When she learned Nationwide and the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) were partnering to offer manure pit safety training, she saw a way to raise that awareness.

“We have focused on farm safety at the Farm Bureau for a long time. I have worked with our local 911 coordinator for around 10 years to identify where there are training gaps and what we can do,” said Bashaw, a 30-year Nationwide agent with Kevin Daniels Agency who's also her county's Farm Bureau vice president. “We hosted a grain bin safety event with NECAS for our fire department several years ago. So I contacted Dan Neenan, Director of NECAS, to see if we could do the same for manure pit safety.”

Watch Dan Neenan talk about manure pit safety and rescue
Dan Neenan, Director of National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS), talks about the dangers of manure pits and how farmers and first responders can help keep themselves and others safe.

Connecting with local first responders

After coordinating sponsorships with her agency, Cornell Cooperative Extensive of Franklin County and the Franklin County Farm Bureau, Bashaw worked with local officials and Neenan to set up the county-wide training. Neenan, who’s also paramedic specialist and firefighter II with the Epworth and Centralia/Peosta, Iowa, fire departments, made the trip from NECAS’ Peosta, Iowa, headquarters with the NECAS manure pit simulator in late April for the training. The system safely replicates what it’s like to be trapped in a manure pit, a dangerous confined space. Thirty-four local first responders and farmers attended the event.

“Before the training, I learned there wasn’t a single person at our local fire department who knew how to rescue someone from a manure pit,” Bashaw said. “We had farmers and our local EMS crew in attendance. It was good, hands-on training.”

In addition to education on how to work in manure pits and rescue anyone trapped in them, the training includes instruction on gas monitors that can detect when toxic manure gases are present in enough concentration to endanger human health. Since the event, Bashaw said local dairy and beef producers have expressed interest in sharing or purchasing their own gas monitors.

Get a gas monitor at a discounted price
Manure pit gas concentrations can vary over time, so it’s critical to monitor gas levels before every entry and to keep monitoring while in the confined space to ensure the safety of yourself and those working with you. We’ve partnered with KC Supply to offer a discount on gas monitors.

Moving forward following the manure pit safety and rescue training

Bashaw is working with local first responders to provide farmers access to gas monitors. Local fire department leaders have pledged to provide calibration for the devices that can help save lives. These types of responses show efforts like the Nationwide and NECAS manure pit safety training program exemplify the community’s shared ethic around farm safety.

“You hear these horror stories and it’s just heart-wrenching. Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations. It’s such an important part of our community,” Bashaw said. “With the right support, we can show that we’re serious about making sure not one more life is lost in a manure pit in our area. This kind of training shows how much we can do working together.”

To learn more about manure pit safety or to request training in your area, visit here or contact your local Nationwide Farm Certified agent.

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