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Recognition and Control

Anhydrous ammonia is widely used as a refrigerant in many industrial facilities, including:

  • Meat, poultry, and fish processing facilities
  • Dairy and ice cream plants
  • Wineries and breweries
  • Fruit juice, vegetable juice, and soft drink processing facilities
  • Cold storage warehouses
  • Other food processing facilities
  • Petrochemical facilities
Hazard Recognition

Ammonia spills and releases pose a significant threat to workers from skin contact, inhalation, and fire and explosion. The key provision of process safety management is process hazard analysis (PHA) - a careful review of what could go wrong and what safeguards must be implemented to prevent releases of hazardous chemicals. The following references help you to begin a PHA by recognizing process hazards.

  • Process Safety Management. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page.
  • Ammonia. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (May 1994). Provides an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLHs) document that includes acute toxicity data for ammonia.
  • Toxicological Profile for Ammonia. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (September 2004). Provides exposure risks, exposure limits, and health effects for ammonia.
  • ToxFAQs™ for Ammonia. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (September 2004). Answers the most frequently asked health questions about ammonia.
  • Public Health Statement for Ammonia. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (September 2004). Provides information on exposure risks, exposure limits, and health effects.
  • Ammonia (PDF). New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet, (September 2007). Provides a summary source of information of all potential and most severe health hazards that may result from ammonia exposure.
Worker Protection

Accidental releases of ammonia from refrigeration facilities have resulted in both injuries and deaths to employees of these facilities. These injuries and deaths are caused from contact with both liquid and vapor forms of ammonia. Because refrigeration systems operate at elevated pressures, additional care must be taken to maintain and operate these systems so as to prevent releases with potentially catastrophic consequences. OSHA has developed this page to assist employers in identifying and controlling the hazards associated with the operation and maintenance of ammonia refrigeration systems.

Case Studies
  • Report of Examination of Samples. OSHA, (November 9, 1998). Provides a report describing galvanic corrosion found in an ammonia refrigeration pipe used near brine tanks. The pipe catastrophically failed, causing a release of ammonia and a subsequent explosion. The report illustrates the potential of corrosion of refrigeration piping used in similar service conditions.

*Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

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