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Confined spaces – Slurry tank fatality

In June 2005, a farm manager died when trying to rescue one of his staff who had entered a recently installed below-ground slurry tank to adjust a pump float switch. An employee of the tank installer was also involved in adjusting the pump float at the time of the incident.

A joint investigation was undertaken by HSE and Thames Valley Police. It was found that none of the farm staff understood the dangers from entering confined spaces and had entered other slurry tanks on the farm on a number of previous occasions.

In March 2007 the case was heard in Oxford Crown Court. The farmer pleaded guilty to failing to comply with Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined. The employee of the tank installer, was found not guilty of manslaughter.   

This incident again illustrates the extreme dangers of entering confined spaces, such as slurry tanks, slurry channels, and wet grain silos.

Farmers need to identify such areas of risk and ensure that nobody enters them, other than in exceptional circumstances when the full requirements of the Confined Spaces Regulations are implemented. Anyone who does enter a confined space must be adequately trained and equipped.