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Hog manure leading to mysterious foam that traps flammable gases

On behalf of Jeffrey Frederick of Frederick & Hagle posted in Workplace Accidents on Thursday, May 16, 2013.

Large hog farms around the Midwest are experiencing a very gross and very dangerous phenomenon that could be putting workers at risk. A few years ago, a layer of mysterious foam began developing on top of the hog manure that collects in below-ground pits. This is actually very dangerous because toxic gases can ignite as the waste brakes down. The mysterious foam can trap these gases, making sudden explosion a very real risk.

Reports indicate that some operations may be unaware of any presence of the foam, and the substantial risk for a workplace accident the foam presents. Surveys estimate about 25 percent of these large pork operations scattered across Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa are experiencing this safety risk.

No fatalities have yet been reported, but this is a concern as researchers are still unable to discern the origins of this foam. Just two years after the appearance of this substance, several explosions already occurred. A report from the University of Minnesota details, “…one explosion destroyed a barn on a farm in northern Iowa, killing 1,500 pigs and severely burning the worker involved.”

Investigation into this issue is ongoing. To get rid of the foam until researchers can understand why it is developing, some operations are using antibiotics to kill of the foam by attacking the microbes present in the substance. Explosions can be some of the most devastating workplace accidents in Illinois, so more needs to be done to address this serious issue before additional workers are injured or even killed in an explosion.

Safety should always be a top priority in workplaces across Illinois. If an employer neglects taking steps to protect workers, or neglects safety regulations, an attorney can assist an injured employee in pursuing recourse for the medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: Mother Jones, “Mysterious Poop Foam Causes Explosions on Hog Farms,” Tom Philpott, May 15, 2013

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