Many of you have read the press reports of the tragic loss of life in a Minnesota nursery when two workers died from a fire when they began to power wash the empty room. While the investigation isn’t complete, I’ve worked with both the production company and the insurance company on this situation, and the best guess so far is that the explosion was caused by a space heater igniting methane that accumulated as a result of power washing activities bursting the foam bubbles in the manure pit.

As a result of this unfortunate incident, the production company in agreement with the insurance carrier has implemented the following policy for any building/room that has pit foaming and is going to be power washed following removal of the last animal.

  1. Before anyone enters an empty room/barn where the pit was known to be foaming, turn the gas off OUTSIDE the building.
  2. Turn the ventilation to stage 2 full (100 percent) and let it run for 30 minutes before entering.
  3. Go ahead and do the pre-soak (known to knock down the foam) – but keep the furnaces OFF.
  4. After pre-soaking and foam knock-down, keep ventilation at stage 2 for 30 minutes.
  5. The production system are buying a methane meter and will then test for methane levels at the furnace before turning the gas back on. Methane is explosive at concentrations of 5-15 percent of the ambient air.

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