We know Spring is busy. We also know that mistakes are more likely to be made through the hustle and bustle. The problem is there’s no room for error when transporting and applying NH3. Taking time to brush up on your anhydrous ammonia safety can only help you if an emergency strikes.
What makes anhydrous ammonia so dangerous? First off, it’s a hygroscopic substance; which means it absorbs water from the air or the nearest source. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the nearest source of water is typically a human. Eyes, skin, and lungs become the most at risk due to their high moisture content. Injuries are almost always severe due to its corrosive nature; including burns and blisters to exposed skin, blindness, and suffocation from prolonged exposure.
You may be the most cautious person when you are around anhydrous, but there are some situations that are simply out of your control. We hope that you will never have to use these first aid tips, but as the adage goes, better safe than sorry.
If a release occurs:
Turn your tractor/vehicle into the wind and drive away from the anhydrous ammonia cloud. Put on a full-face respirator and run into the wind. If this isn’t available, wear goggles and wrap your face with a towel, shirt etc.
Treating exposed areas:
The first rule of thumb is to immediately and continuously flush the affected areas with water. If water isn’t readily available, use non-toxic liquids like coffee. Make sure to get medical attention as soon as possible. It’s important to disclose as much information about the damage so they don’t apply salves or ointments that can worsen the wounds and/or so first responders can bring proper gear to the scene.
When contact has been made with your eyes, flush with water for at least 15 minutes. Using a squeeze type water bottle is especially useful to flush the entire eye surface, especially the inner lining of the eyelids. Another flushing option is to dunk your head in a bucket of clean water while blinking and moving your eyes around.
Once again flush your skin thoroughly with water. If your clothes have been saturated it’s important to remember they could freeze to your skin; douse yourself with water before removing your clothes. Once your clothing has “thawed” and can be pulled easily away from your skin, you are safe to remove. Reminder, do not apply oils, salves or ointments to burns.
Of course, make sure you or the victim gets to a safe area. Even at low levels of inhalation, your nose, mouth, throat, and lungs can become severely irritated leading to swelling. Call for medical help immediately, especially if there are chest pains or a persistent cough. If the victim isn’t breathing, start artificial respiration right away; keep the person warm.
Although we thoroughly inspect all of our tanks and toolbars before they are sent out, it is still imperative to run through this checklist before transportation and application.
- Check the running gear on the tank for any structural damage and wear. Make sure tires have no bald spots or bulges.
- Whatever you are using to tow the tanks should weigh at least as much as the tank. Not only do you have to use a hitch pin with safety chains but Iowa code also requires drivers to stop at all railroad crossings. While transporting, you should not exceed 25 mph.
- If you are a contact wearer, do NOT wear them if there is a chance of exposure. Anhydrous can get trapped behind contacts causing severe damage to the eyes.
- Know what direction the wind is blowing in case you need to escape the area. Also, be sure to work upwind whenever you possibly can.
- Check hoses and valves for any damage.
- Be sure to bleed the hose before connecting or disconnecting.
- Keep valves closed until you are ready to start application.
Personal Protective Equipment
Make sure you always have your personal protective equipment on when near or handling anhydrous ammonia. It is better to be safe than sorry.
- Ventless Goggles & Full-Face Shield
- Long Sleeve Shirt
- Long Cuff Rubber Gloves
- At least 5 gallons of water and a full 8oz water bottle
If in doubt about the safety of any of our NH3 equipment, please give us a call! We would much rather answer a question or make a field repair than visit a customer in the hospital.