We’ve written it before. A manure pit death is a crappy way to die. In fact, we have discussed such an event two times prior in this blog. Searching our news system, you will find the word “manure” appears in 4 Cluttered Desk articles over the years.

I know, I thought it would be more as well. Remember, there is a difference between writing “about” manure and writing with a “manure like” quality. That may where the confusion lies. But I digress…

A worker in Stockton, IA died last week after becoming trapped in a manure pit on the Sievers Family Farm. A local volunteer firefighting company was said to be on the scene for most of the day. They had to call for backup from other volunteer fire departments nearby before responders were able to retrieve the man’s body. The man had been performing maintenance on the tank.

According to news reports, Sievers “is a cattle farm and the location of AgriReNew, a renewable energy company that recycles manure to produce electricity.”

Now as shocking as death from electricity-producing manure can be, as we alluded to earlier, it is not unheard of. There have been multiple deaths in manure pits over the years. Usually, the workers succumb to methane and other gasses that collect in the tank. As we wrote back in 2011:

In 2007, 4 members of a Mennonite family and their hired farmhand were killed in a manure pit. This was not the first time so many perished at one time. In 1989, a family of five died in a similar accident. One after another, they went into the pit to rescue those who had gone before and ended up suffering the same fate. In the 1980s there were almost 20 manure pit deaths, with 40 percent of the victims succumbing while attempting a rescue.

This simply highlights the fact that farming is a dangerous profession. It is one of the most dangerous businesses in the world. Yet, ironically, agriculture is exempt from workers’ compensation coverage in many states. A quick search in the WorkCompResearch.com Comparative Report Center tells us that many states either exclude agricultural workers altogether or provide special exemptions and increased thresholds to required coverage. 

That doesn’t seem to make much sense given the dangers associated with working in the industry. According to NIOSH, about 100 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury every day. That is over 36,000 a year; many of them with no safety net afforded by workers’ compensation. 

Perhaps it is time for states to reconsider their positions on this.  

Until that time, we know two things for certain. Farming is a dangerous and often unprotected business, and a manure pit is a crappy place to die. The former is proven every day, and the latter occurs on a more regular basis than we would care to believe. It is unlikely to change, but our society could try to afford some protection for the people who toil daily to put food on our table.

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