Texas Tech University
Scholarly Messenger
Working with Ammonia

Inform your workers of ammonia's hazards. Ammonia is a health hazard – it is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Acute exposure can cause eye and respiratory irritation, coughing, and wheezing. The concentration in air that is immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) is 300 parts per million (ppm). Workers who inhale it may experience swelling and accumulation of fluid in the lungs, which can occur up to 24 hours after exposure.

Ammonia can be explosive, especially in an enclosed space or when other flammable chemicals are present. By itself, its flammable range is between 15 percent and 28 percent by volume in air. When mixed with lubricating oils, the flammable range increases.

Ammonia will react dangerously with some chemicals—most notably, chlorine bleach. Ammonia is also incompatible with other halogens (for example, fluorine), oxidizing agents (for example, nitrogen oxide), and heavy metals (for example, mercury and silver).

Train employees to work safely with ammonia by following these general precautions and the safe work practices that apply in this facility:
  • Wear personal protective equipment. To work with liquid ammonia, you may need eye, face, and skin protection. To work with liquid or gaseous ammonia, you may require respiratory protection.
  • Take hot work permitting precautions whenever hot work will be performed in areas where ammonia is present. If piping, vessels, or containers that have held ammonia will be welded, soldered, drilled, or cut, purge all ammonia first.
  • Use proper ventilation. Never work with ammonia in an unventilated area. Always ensure that you have adequate ventilation, and make sure that ventilation is nonsparking or explosion-proof.
  • Store ammonia separately from incompatible chemicals, away from heat and ignition sources.
  • Know what to do in case of a spill or leak. When you work with ammonia, know where the emergency escape respirators are located. If ammonia leaks or is spilled, put on a respirator, and leave the area immediately. Report the spill or leak so it can be appropriately controlled.
  • Know how to respond to splashes. Liquid ammonia can burn your eyes. Know where the emergency eyewash is stored in your work area and how to use it.
The Department of Environmental Health and Safety will offer information on laboratory safety and other issues each month in Scholarly Messenger. This month's information is from the “Daily Advisor.”