An Ohio farm worker drowned in a manure pit in Dorset Township. Authorities said Santos Medina de Jesus became trapped when the tractor he was driving overturned. The 41-year-old man’s body was found submerged in four feet of manure.
Officials with the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office said the dairy farm’s manure pit, or lagoon, is around half an acre long. De Jesus’ job was to transport manure from a barn and place it in the lagoon.
As reported by Ohio.com, authorities believe the tractor overturned, dumping de Jesus into the pit. As he was trapped under the tractor, he eventually drowned. An autopsy will be performed to determine the actual cause of death.
Unfortunately, manure pits can be a serious hazard for farmers and farm workers. Numerous deaths prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue an alert in May 1990.
The CDC explains that manure pits are most commonly found on livestock farms. The containment systems allow farmers to store raw manure for production of fertilizer. While the process can be messy, it is considered more efficient than historical methods of dealing with waste.
As the raw waste ferments it produces several gasses, which are potentially toxic. As the ammonia, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and methane, are often trapped in a confined area, the atmosphere becomes oxygen-deficient and explosive.
Farmers and farm workers are often unaware of the toxic fumes and suffocate inside the pits or tanks.
The CDC suggests several safeguards to prevent manure pit accidents. Most importantly, it is recommended that farm workers use a standby person when working in or near the pits. The standby person should remain far enough away to avoid the fumes.
It is also recommended that workers wear a safety harness attached to a lifeline. The line should be attached to mechanical equipment capable of pulling the worker out of the pit.
It is unclear how or why the Ohio farm worker’s tractor overturned. However, de Jesus was working alone in the manure pit. The incident is still under investigation.
[Image via Flickr]