Anhydrous Ammonia Safety

Anhydrous ammonia is widely used as a refrigerant in industrial facilities such as meat, poultry, and fish processing facilities; dairy and ice cream plants; and cold storage warehouses.  Anhydrous ammonia spills and releases pose a significant threat to workers, who may be injured by skin contact, inhalation, and fire and explosions caused by insufficient safety precautions.

Anhydrous Ammonia Transfer Hazard Prevention

Typically, anhydrous ammonia is transferred from a tank or truck to a fixed storage installation that is part of a processing plant. This process involves the use of transfer hoses.  Lack of proper safety mechanisms during the transfer can cause release or spill of this substance. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA)'s Process Safety Management Standard requires that transfer systems of anhydrous ammonia include certain types of protective devices. The standard that requires the following safety measures be implemented (among other things):

  • Loading and unloading systems must be protected by suitable devices to prevent emptying of storage containers in the event of severance of the hose. Backflow check valves or properly sized excess flow valves must be installed where necessary to provide this protection.
  • Employers must identify the recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices for transfer systems, and then ensure their transfer system equipment is compliant.

To learn more about process safety management, click here.

Anhydrous Ammonia Exposure Prevention

Anhydrous ammonia is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs. While the release of any amount of anhydrous ammonia may cause an employee to become contaminated, exposure beyond the amount of 300 parts per million (ppm) is immediately dangerous to life and health. If the possibility of any exposure above 300 ppm exists, employers should equip employees with face protection, which includes safety goggles and gas masks. Ventilated, splash proof goggles provide adequate protection in most instances. However, where splashing may occur, employees should wear a full-face shield to protect the face.  

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