NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Farmer asphyxiated in manure waste pit.

Minnesota Department of Health
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 94MN045, 1994 Nov; :1-4
A 32-year-old male farmer (victim) died from asphyxiation after entering an underground manure waste pit. The victim and his wife worked for several days pumping manure from the pit. The nearly empty pit contained approximately 2 feet of liquid manure at the time of the incident. Manure was drawn or vacuumed from the pit into a manure spreader tank using a power take-off driven air pump. The pump was mounted on the spreader in front of the manure tank. A hose from the spreader tank was inserted into the pit through a round access opening located near the south end of the pit. The spreader air pump filled the spreader tank by creating a vacuum within the tank. After filling the spreader tank, the victim closed a tank valve and disconnected the hose from the bottom of the tank. He left the end of the hose which had been connected to the tank, on the ground next to the pit opening. When he returned from spreading a load of manure on a farm field, he parked the tractor and spreader near the opening to the pit. Apparently, while he attempted to reconnect the hose to the tank, the hose slipped from his hands and fell into the pit. He inserted a ladder into the pit and climbed down to retrieve the hose. While standing on the ladder, he was unable to grasp the hose. After a few minutes, he felt the effects of the hazardous gases he was exposed to and exited the pit. Approximately ten minutes later, he re-entered the pit and attempted to retrieve the hose. Again, he was unable to reach the hose while standing on the ladder. When he again felt the effects of the hazardous gases, he climbed to the top of the pit to breath fresh air. He remained on the ladder with only his head and shoulders above ground level for several minutes. He descended the ladder a third time to attempt to retrieve the hose. He again failed to reach the hose and began to climb the ladder. As he neared the top of the pit, he lost consciousness and fell into the pit. His wife immediately called emergency personnel. Rescue personnel equipped with self-contained breathing apparatus entered the pit and removed the victim. He died a short time later at a local hospital. MN FACE investigators concluded that, in order to reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences, the following guidelines should be followed: 1. positive-pressure, self-contained breathing apparatus should always be used by workers when entering manure waste pits; 2. manure waste pits should be identified as confined spaces and posted with hazard warning signs at all entrances; 3. workers should never enter manure waste pits unless absolutely necessary and only when following established confined space entry procedures; 4. manure waste pits should be equipped with a powered ventilation system; and 5. farm workers and family members should never enter a confined space to attempt a rescue operation without proper consideration for their own safety.
Region-5; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Protective-measures; Protective-equipment; Farmers; Confined-spaces; Self-contained-breathing-apparatus; Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-machinery; Agricultural-workers
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
FACE-94MN045; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-507283
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Minnesota Department of Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division