You can’t be too safe around ammonia
Jim Sweigart doesn’t even demonstrate the qualities of anhydrous ammonia without full safety gear. He certainly wouldn’t go to the field without it.
Sweigart, risk management specialist with Risk Management of East Central Indiana, Muncie, recently demonstrated to onlookers at a safety meeting that anhydrous ammonia is soluble in water. At the same time, he emphasized that the substance seeks water wherever it can find it. “Anhydrous” means without water. Anhydrous ammonia is one part nitrogen and three parts hydrogen.
• The vapor of anhydrous ammonia is lighter than air.
• Wear proper protective gear to handle exposure.
• Flush any area hit by anhydrous ammonia with water.
Here are facts you should know:
• Anhydrous ammonia is not a poison, but it is a strong corrosive material.
• Pure anhydrous ammonia is colorless and lighter than air.
• It’s stored and transported under pressure, because it boils at minus 28 degrees F.
• When released into the atmosphere, it expands 850 times its liquid volume.
• As temperatures rise, pressure increases.
The goal of safety protective equipment is to help you avoid eye contact and skin contact, Sweigart says. A preventive maintenance program helps. When tanks leave a dealership, they must contain a full reservoir of water on the side.
“Water is the only first aid treatment for exposure to anhydrous ammonia,” Sweigart says. “Flush the affected area for at least 15 minutes. Then seek medical attention.”
Don’t apply salves, oils or ointments on an anhydrous burn during the first 24 hours, he emphasizes. The key is to wear protective gear and follow proper procedures. But if contact should occur, know how to react immediately.
This article published in the January, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.