Occupational safety in the stable

For farmers, their animals are the most precious commodity. On top of this, who breeds animals does it mainly out of passion.

Passion that sometimes makes us forget that our health is the first thing that needs to be protected, and that in our farm there may be areas at risk.

Here are the gases to keep in mind and how to recognise them (when possible):

H2S – Hydrogen sulphide

It has the characteristic smell of rotten eggs and originates from livestock manure. Its concentration can vary significantly depending on the environmental parameters in the stable. It is a very insidious gas because at 50ppm it causes loss of smell (olfactory paralysis) which no longer allows us to perceive its presence in the air, thus running the risk of entering more exposed areas and incurring into serious consequences such as pulmonary oedema (300ppm), damage to the nervous system (500ppm), and even death (1000ppm).

Scientific studies have also shown that prolonged exposures to low concentrations of hydrogen sulphide lead to tension, depression, fatigue and mental confusion.

NH3 – Ammonia

To us, it is the most familiar of gases, it’s the easiest to recognise and the one most often present in animal farms. It is irritating to the point of being corrosive for some materials. It results from the fermentation of urea and its concentration gradually increases during the breeding cycle.

50ppm of ammonia cause irritation of the nose and throat, while 5000ppm is the exposure concentration above which death occurs. Taking these values into account, the exposure limits not to be exceeded are: 35ppm for a maximum of 15 consecutive minutes and 25ppm for a maximum of 8 consecutive hours.

CH4 – Methane

Also produced by the animals’ manure, it is an odourless gas, and it is therefore impossible for the farmer to detect its presence. Fortunately, it is not toxic to man, but that does not mean that it is not extremely dangerous.

In an environment saturated with methane, the amount of oxygen available decreases: at average concentrations it can be difficult to take a full breath, while continuous exposure to high concentrations causes dizziness, nausea, unconsciousness and can even be fatal. Let us not forget that it is odourless and also highly flammable.

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