While ammonia is not a poisonous gas, it does severely irritate the mucous membrane of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. A very small concentration of ammonia is easily detected in the air by its sharp, pungent odor. This serves as a warning. Prolonged exposure to air containing 100 parts per million (ppm) of ammonia is not harmful but concentrations exceeding 700 ppm will cause irritation of the eyes and may cause permanent injury. Concentrations of 5,000 ppm or more may be fatal causing spasm or inflammation of the larynx.
Liquid ammonia should never come in contact with skin because it freezes tissue, subjecting it to caustic action. Symptoms of such a burn are similar to a thermal burn.
Employees working where ammonia hazards exist should be trained in the following:
A. Being familiar with the system design, the components, pressures in different areas of the system and location of isolation valves in a system.
B. Safe practices when working with ammonia.
- Wearing safety glasses, full face shield or both when working with ammonia.
- Wearing special gloves when working with liquid ammonia.
- Having and wearing breathing apparatus around higher concentration of ammonia.
- Proper procedures when handling ammonia, purging oil from an ammonia system and charging ammonia.
- Use normal electrical “lock out-tag out” procedures.
- Use “lock out-tag out” procedures on all necessary ammonia service valves to safely service components in system.
C. Methods for properly handling ammonia containers and equipment.
D. Location of safety showers, bubbler drinking fountains, water hoses, exits, and first-aid equipment.
E. The urgency of immediately reporting any unusual odor of ammonia.
F. Proper behavior in an emergency until the doctor or other emergency specialists arrive, including:
- Washing eyes immediately.
- Removing any ammonia-saturated clothing instantly.
- Getting patient to lie down and provide him with fresh air.
- Provide oxygen if patient’s breathing is weak or administer artificial respiration if breathing has ceased.