Swine Barn Workers Increasingly Aware of Steps to Protect Against H2S Exposure

CANADA - The Prairie Swine Centre reports swine barn workers have become increasingly cognizant of the dangers posed by hydrogen sulfide gas, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 5 January 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Hydrogen sulfide is the most dangerous of the gases produced by the anaerobic decomposition of manure.

The Prairie Swine Centre has conducted several projects designed to assess and reduce the risks of H2S and is one of a number of organizations that offers hydrogen sulfide awareness training.

Information services manager Lee Whittington says people have become more aware of the dangers of exposure.

Lee Whittington-Prairie Swine Centre
Barns typically have three components in their air, dust ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.

Dust and ammonia, we would primarily classify as irritants.

They can cause problems if you're exposed for excessive periods of time but hydrogen sulfide is different in that it has the potential at very high levels to render people unconscious.

When we did some sampling of barn air quality, this is going back probably four years ago, we were seeing some extremely high levels that, if a person had spend any significant amount of time in that particular part of the barn where we saw that spike, they would have been seriously hurt.

The biggest problem tends to be when you agitate the manure cause the hydrogen sulfide gas will stay in solution until you agitate it and then when you mix it up then it comes out of solution in large quantities.

Now, people go into barns every day and they're not getting sick but there is always that potential and certainly we see a lot more people wearing their little monitors now so that, if the monitor does go off indicating that there are higher levels, they get the heck out of that environment and you back in in ten minutes and it's dissipated.

Whittington notes many of the farms have made hydrogen sulfide awareness training mandatory for those working in their barns.

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