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Farming Respiratory Hazards

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 4 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Research Safety Farm Particulate

There are many different substances which can cause respiratory problems if you’re working on a farm. Respiratory hazards can be extremely dangerous and, whilst there is no getting away from the fact that certain hazards cannot be eliminated, due care and attention must be taken to ensure that the proper Procedures and Protection are put into place to minimise the risks.

Farm Chemicals

Harmful fumes are emitted from many different fertilizers, pesticides and sanitizers on a farm. The first thing which is necessary to minimise the risks and to ensure safety is to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label before using them. All spraying equipment needs to be regularly maintained and checked to ensure that no valves are leaking or are ruptured and that things like hoses are connected properly. Any spray booms should be situated at the back of a vehicle to reduce the exposure to harmful fumes and Protective Masks, Goggles and Gloves worn where possible.

Dangerous Gases

There are a number of potentially dangerous and toxic gases which are commonly produced in routine agricultural operations on a farm. They can occur in several places but are more commonly associated with areas such as manure pits and silos. Here are some examples:

  • Nitrogen oxides – This occurs mainly in silos in the loading and distribution process. You shouldn’t enter a silo for about 2 to 3 weeks after filling and should run the blowers for a good half an hour before entering. When you do enter, you should follow confined space procedures and wear particulate respirators
  • Carbon Monoxide – You must ensure that all equipment which can emit carbon monoxide is working properly. This includes all vehicles and any gas heaters and pressure washers which might be used. It is especially important that any work which is carried out indoors is only done so in a building which is properly ventilated
  • Ammonia – Ammonia resulting from faecal deposits can be reduced by keeping bedding dry, using flooring such as wire mesh or slats and by basic hygiene in making sure that animal and urine faeces isn’t allowed to build up

Chemical cartridges also protect you from certain gases and toxic vapours.

Mould Spores and Dust

‘Organic Dust Toxicity Syndrome’ (ODTS) and ‘Farmer’s Lung’ are terms given to two occupational diseases in farming caused by inhaling dust and other airborne mould spores. A common example of where they might be prevalent is when working with baled hay in closed storage areas where they have had a chance to develop and they become more active in warmer weather, particularly in excess of 70F. This can cause severe coughing, headache, muscle ache, fever and chills. Automation or mechanical feeding can help to reduce this as can wetting down materials which can help to reduce the amount of airborne spores. Particulate respirators which purify the air you breathe and which filter out particles are your best line of defence.

There are also a range of different working practices which have been designed to minimise the risk of farm Respiratory Hazards. In addition to the above, recommendations include keeping indoor humidity below 80%, substituting pellet feed rather than dusty chopped seed, lowering the speed of certain equipment and carrying out specific tasks when the wind is blowing in a certain direction.

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