Let’s talk about ammonia hazards. Ammonia is a naturally occurring gas that has been used for decades to keep things cool and fresh, from refrigerators in the workplace to your favorite ice cream flavor at home. However, it can also be hazardous so if you’re not careful then an innocent little leak could cause serious damage! Luckily, with Process Safety Management (PSM) standards combined with OSHA HAZWOPER training at Hazwoper Center, companies are able to reduce their chances of exposing employees or even customers to dangerous chemicals such as ammonia, while still achieving safe working conditions on site too.
The Facts About Ammonia
What Is Ammonia?
Ammonia is a colorless gas with a suffocating odor that can be released from certain types of fertilizers and household cleaners. It is also used in refrigeration and the production of plastics, textiles, and paper goods. Ammonia has been identified as an occupational hazard by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) because it can cause coughing; irritation to eyes, nose or throat; drowsiness; dizziness; shortness of breath; nausea; vomiting; and diarrhea.
How Can People Be Exposed to Ammonia?
Ammonia is a generally safe and cost-effective way to regulate temperatures in chilled products, but it’s also hazardous if not handled properly. If you’re working with ammonia at work or as an employee for a company that uses the chemical, exposure is possible and proper training is necessary.
People could potentially inhale ammonia gas or have skin contact with liquid or fumes of ammonia, which can cause burning and redness. Swallowing liquids that contain high concentrations of ammonia such as dishwasher detergents or fertilizers would be extremely dangerous.
What are the Hazards of Working with Ammonia?
The ammonia refrigeration process has only had minor changes since the early 1900’s. It keeps items fresh and prevents bacterial growth. Ammonia can be found as either a gas or a liquid depending on its state at temperatures below -33 degrees Celsius. It becomes a clear, colorless, corrosive gas with an irritating smell when inhaled by humans (at higher levels). While this coolant isn’t flammable like hydrogen peroxide, high heat can cause an explosion but isn’t common. At high levels, it can cause severe damage to both lungs and eyes.
Anhydrous ammonia leakages can threaten the safety of workers and others inside and outside of the workplace.
Anhydrous ammonia is widely used as a refrigerant in many industrial facilities, including:
- Meat, poultry, and fish processing facilities
- Dairy and ice cream plants
- Wineries and breweries
- Fruit juice, vegetable juice, and soft drink processing facilities
- Cold storage warehouses
- Other food processing facilities
- Petrochemical facilities
How is Ammonia Exposure Treated?
If exposed, seek professional help immediately. You can treat ammonia exposure to the eyes by flushing the eyes with water for at least 15-20 minutes. If contact occurs by skin, flush contaminated skin with water. Affected clothes should be quickly removed. If ammonia is inhaled, move to fresh air immediately. If the worker has stopped breathing, administer artificial respiration.
Is Ammonia a Hazardous Substance?
Yes. OSHA maintains strict guidelines for the safe use and maintenance of hazardous chemicals like ammonia.
Process Safety Management (PSM)
It’s important for companies to understand the safety requirements of ammonia refrigeration systems. For those with over 10,000 pounds of it in their possession, they must have a comprehensive and fully documented PSM program. All workers are trained thoroughly on these standards so that implementation can be carried out properly. Regular maintenance along with equipment upgrades is necessary due to size and complexity issues stemming from many such plants requiring design engineering, as well as experienced personnel.
If a company uses hazardous materials, like ammonia, it’s important to have workers on site at all times. These workers should be regularly inspecting systems and resolving issues as necessary. Additionally, these companies often employ first-aid certified personnel for emergency procedures in case there are any problems with the plant or its equipment during normal operations.
Companies can avoid dangerous ammonia leaks and worker exposure by following OSHA’s guidelines. Guidelines are available on their website, where companies will also find information about recommended safety standards and PSM procedures.
HAZWOPER Training – Ammonia Hazards
Ammonia is one of the most commonly used refrigerants. The ammonia that many companies use to regulate temperatures and prevent spoilage does have its dangers, but it can be managed with proper safety procedures in place as well as adequate training on how to handle this hazardous chemical.
A workplace safety program is necessary for protecting employees from accidents, injuries, and fines. This includes implementing PSM as well as HAZWOPER training that will teach workers how to handle hazardous materials in the work environment safely while also learning about OSHA standards. Check out our HAZWOPER courses to learn more about protection against ammonia hazards and other hazardous chemicals.