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Fertilizer Chemical Safety

Ammonia fertilizers are widely used because of their effectiveness in getting large amounts of nitrogen into the soil. Anhydrous ammonia fertilizer is essentially dry ammonia gas compressed into liquid form. This material is very harmful if accidentally spilled or sprayed onto body surfaces. It can cause blindness if it gets into the eyes. Also, high concentrations of ammonia gas in the air are very irritating to the lungs. Always use appropriate personal protective equipment and exercise rigorous care when handling, applying, and storing such toxic or irritating materials.

Safety Precautions

Most ammonia fertilizer accidents occur when the material is being transferred from one tank to another. One of the major causes of accidents is hoses coming loose or bursting.

Exercise care in the handling and use of ammonia fertilizer by doing the following:

  • Always wear chemical goggles and adequate skin cover.
  • Inspect equipment before each day's work and correct any abnormal conditions.
  • Water is the first aid treatment of choice when ammonia gets into the eyes or on the skin. In case of mishap, flush affected areas for 15 minutes and get medical help as soon as possible.
  • Make sure all valves, lines, and connections are secure in order to reduce the chance of either leaks or being doused during transfer.

Precautions When Working with Anhydrous Ammonia

  • Use good equipment specially designed for handling anhydrous ammonia.
  • Keep your equipment in good repair. Worn hoses, loose connections, and other defects can cause accidents.
  • Follow the prescribed sequence of operations for connecting to, filling, and disconnecting from the applicator tank.
  • Never leave the equipment during the transfer operation.
  • After filling the applicator tank, close all valves.

Storing Ammonium Nitrate

The guidelines listed below must be followed when storing ammonium nitrate fertilizer:

  • Not more than 60 tons of ammonium nitrate shall be stored.
  • Storage buildings shall have adequate ventilation.
  • All flooring in storage and handling areas shall be of noncombustible material, without open drains or traps.
  • Buildings and structures shall be dry and free from water seepage through the roof, walls, and floors.
  • Bags of ammonium nitrate shall not be stored within 30 inches of the storage building walls and partitions.
  • The height of piles shall not exceed 20 feet. The width of piles shall not exceed 20 feet or the length 50 feet.
  • Aisles shall be provided to separate piles by a clear space of not less than 3 feet in width.
  • Ammonium nitrate shall be stored separately from flammable or combustible materials (e.g. paper, rags, hay, oils).
  • Broken bags, spilled material, and discarded containers shall be promptly gathered and disposed.
  • Prohibit smoking where ammonium nitrate is stored.
  • Fire control devices such as a water hose or portable fire extinguishers must be available in the storage area.

May 2011
Reviewed November 2014