Figure 1. Eyewash station
Decontaminate the victim as quickly as possible. Start with the eyes. The whole body, or exposed area, must be flushed with generous amounts of water; this includes the hair, ears, under the chin, and armpits. Water sources such as showers, hoses, eye wash stations, or stock tanks are acceptable [29 CFR 1910.151(c)]
Ensure trained personnel and adequate first aid supplies are readily available [29 CFR 1910.151(b)]
Contact with the Eyes
Even if only a small amount of ammonia enters the eyes, irrigate the eyes with an abundance of water for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Continually and thoroughly flush the entire eye surface and the inner lining of the eyelids. Eyes affected by ammonia close
involuntarily, so the eyelids must be held open so that water can flush the entire eye surface, as well as the inner lining of the eyelid.
If there is no physician available, continue irrigation for an additional 15 minutes.
Do not wear contact lenses when handling anhydrous ammonia. If ammonia gets in the eyes, the ammonia will get trapped under the lenses causing even more damage. They may also prevent immediate flushing of the eye surface.
Serious eye injury should be treated by an ophthalmologist, but in an emergency, wash with large quantities of water for 15 minutes or more
as quickly as possible. In fact, the only real hope for preventing permanent eye injury lies in quick and
Figure 2. Squirtbottle
One suggestion for those likely to be exposed is to carry a small, eight-ounce squeezable squirt bottle filled with water, which can be used to get excess ammonia out of the eyes until a larger water supply can be reached. This small amount of water is not sufficient to
remove all the ammonia. It is essential that the eyes be irrigated for a minimum of 15 minutes as soon as possible.
Another emergency method is to duck the head in water and rapidly blink and move or rotate the eyes about.
Contact with the Skin
It is essential that any ammonia spilled on the worker
be removed immediately and that the worker be moved to an uncontaminated area quickly.
Clothes that have been saturated by liquid ammonia may freeze to the skin. In any case, the victim, still clothed, should get immediately under a shower, if available, or jump into a stock tank, pond, or into any other source of water. Time is important!
Remove clothes only after they are thawed and they can be freely removed from frozen areas. If the clothing is removed incorrectly, whole sections of skin can be torn
No salves, creams, ointments, or jellies should be applied to the skin during a 24-hour period following the injury since this will prevent natural elimination of the ammonia from the skin. After the 24 hour period, the medical treatment is the same for thermal burns. A
physician should view any second- or third-degree freeze burns of the skin.
This is what you should do if ammonia is ingested:
- Call a physician.
- If conscious, have the victim drink large amounts of water.
- Do not induce vomiting if the victim is in shock, in extreme pain, or is unconscious.
- If vomiting begins, place the victims face down with head lower than hips. This prevents vomit from entering the lungs and prevents severe injury.
In all inhalation exposures, severe or minimal:
- Take the exposed workers at once to a clean, uncontaminated area.
- Watch workers exposed to low
concentrations for a short period of time.
They will usually require no treatment and can
- For severe exposure to higher concentrations:
- Call a physician.
- Administer oxygen by an individual who is trained and authorized to do so by a physician. This will help relieve pain and symptoms of lack of oxygen.
- Begin artificial respiration
immediately if the patient is not
- Keep victim warm (but not hot) and rested until transported to the hospital.
In any accident involving contact with ammonia with the eyes or
- Immediately flush the affected area with large quantities of clean water.
- Place the injured person into a container of clean water or under an emergency shower.
- Provide the injured worker with first aid treatment and call a physician at
once in the case of extreme exposure. Give the physician a complete account of the incident.
- Seconds count, wash the ammonia away with
- Ammonia. NIOSH/OSHA, (1989). These
are OSHA comments from the January 19, 1989 Final Rule on Air Contaminants Project. This rule was remanded by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the limits are not
currently in force.
- Ammonia Refrigeration.
OSHA Safety and Health
- Ammonia Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet. The Right to Know Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet, New Jersey Department of Health, (2007, September). This document contains acute and chronic health hazards, identification, workplace exposure limits, medical tests, workplace controls and practices, personal protective equipment, handling and storage, questions and answers, definitions, and emergency response information for fires, spills and first aid.
- Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Ammonia - Biologic Effects of Exposure. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 74-136: Section III, (1974). This document describes the various health effects of exposure to ammonia.