Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News

Slurry warning amid 11 cases of animals dying on Northern Ireland farms

By Jenny Kirkham

Published 06/05/2015

The Spence family farm. Scene of the tragic deaths of Nevin, Graham and Noel Spence.
The Spence family farm. Scene of the tragic deaths of Nevin, Graham and Noel Spence.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue service along with the Health & Safety Executive of Northern Ireland are warning of the dangers of slurry pits to animals and the local farming community.

The warning comes after firefighters attended 11 incidents this year, so far, across Northern Ireland where animals have fallen into uncovered or badly maintained slurry pits. Due to the toxic gases emitted from the slurry the falls have resulted in the loss of animal lives. These deaths have caused substantial emotional and financial loss to farmers across the country for many years now.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service Group Commander Fergal Leonard insists that public safety is their main priority. He said: "The best course of action is through prevention. We appeal to farmers to be vigilant in ensuring the access hatches into slurry pits are secure."

"Our emphasis would be on getting farmers to commit to proper maintenance and not leaving the pits unattended. They should take every precaution in order to keep not only themselves but their animals and small children safe and away from the pits."

"I have been to incidents in the past that have seen upwards of 20 cattle in a pit."

Hydrogen Sulphide is not only fatal to live stock but poses a significant risk to farm workers and their families. The death of 8 year-old Robert Christie who passed away in June 2014 after being overcome by the fumes highlights how dangerous working on a farm can be.

This followed the triple tragedy of Ulster Rugby star Nevin Spence, 22, who was killed along with his 30 year old brother Graham and their 52 year old father Noel.

They were overcome by gas after falling into a slurry tank at their farm on the Drumlough Road in Hillsborough, Co Down in September 2012.

Malcom Downey who heads the Health & Safety Executive Northern Ireland's farm safety team said: "Children and animals must be kept well away during slurry mixing and all openings need to be covered to prevent falls."

For further information in relation to farm safety, please see

Online Editors

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph