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Five family members die after entering manure waste pit on dairy farm, July 26, 1989.

Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 89-46, 1990 Feb; :1-8
A 65 year old male dairy farmer, his 37 and 28 year old sons, a 15 year old grandson, and a 62 year old nephew died when they entered a manure waste pit with an oxygen deficient atmosphere. The farmer owned and operated a diary farm with his family. The manure pit had been installed 18 years ago. On the day of the accident it is thought that the 28 year old son entered the pit to replace the shear pin on the agitator shaft. The pump had not been operating for several days prior to the incident. The 15 year old nephew yelled to his 8 year old brother that their uncle had fallen into the pit. The younger boy ran to the farmhouse where the farmer's wife called several places to secure help. Meanwhile each of the victims apparently entered the pit to help those who had been overcome and each was overcome in turn. The cause of death for all five victims was asphyxiation. It is recommended that manure waste pits be identified as confined spaces, that manure waste systems be constructed in a manner that would allow maintenance to be performed on all serviceable components from outside the pits, that manure waste systems be equipped with some type of powered ventilation system, that manure waste systems never be entered unless absolutely necessary, that entrances to waste pits be covered by a grate like cover, that farm employers be educated as to the hazards of such pits, and that warnings be included on the equipment.
NIOSH-Author; FACE-89-46; Region-5; Toxic-gases; Accident-analysis; Work-practices; Safety-research; Agricultural-workers; Livestock; Confined-spaces; Waste-disposal-systems
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Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division