Ammonia Awareness Safety

Ammonia Awareness


The purpose of this procedure is to advise employees in areas where ammonia is being used and to provide information on an awareness level basis about the properties and hazards of ammonia, general guidelines and training requirements. 


This procedure applies to J. J. White, Inc. operations where employees whose work activities may involve working with or around ammonia. J. J. White employees do not directly work with ammonia; however, J. J. White employees may work in areas (ex: client roofs) where ammonia handling systems exist or where there is the likelihood to be released due to an emergency release or equipment failure. When work is performed on a non-owned or operated site, the operator’s program shall take precedence, however, this document covers J. J. White, Inc. employees and contractors when an operator’s program doesn’t exist or is less stringent. 


Managers and Supervisors:

  • In coordination with the VP of HSE, develop and implement ammonia awareness training
  • Ensure personnel are aware of work that has the potential of exposure to ammonia
  • Identify possible locations where ammonia in the workplace may be used
  • Inform the VP of HSE (or designated JJW Site Safety Coordinator) of upcoming work involving ammonia, allowing the VP of HSE to provide any necessary monitoring or other required actions
  • Ensure employees comply with the ammonia awareness requirements.

VP of Health, Safety, Environmental (HSE): Coordinate annual ammonia awareness training activities. 

Employees: Comply with the ammonia awareness requirements and direct any questions or concerns to the VP of HSE. Attend required annual training


Characteristics of Ammonia 

Appearance: Ammonia is a colorless gas under normal conditions. It can be a liquid under pressure. It has a pungent, suffocating odor. 

Description: Ammonia refers to solutions that are 50% ammonia or greater, ammonia anhydrous, and ammonia anhydrous liquefied, unless otherwise specified. Ammonia is a toxic gas or liquid that, when concentrated, is corrosive to tissues upon contact. Exposure to ammonia in sufficient quantities can be fatal. One of the highest production-volume chemicals in the U.S., concentrated ammonia is used in manufacturing, refrigeration, and agriculture (as a fertilizer). Household ammonia is much less concentrated; it rarely causes burns, but it does cause irritation. The lowest level at which humans can detect the odor of ammonia (odor threshold) generally provides sufficient warning of exposure; however, persons with prolonged exposure to ammonia will lose their ability to detect the odor (olfactory fatigue). Ammonia commonly exists as part of a solution. 

Health Effects: Some of the potential health effects of ammonia such as burning of the eyes, temporary blindness, coughing, chest pain, etc. Exposure of the eyes to ammonia may cause burning, tearing, temporary blindness and severe eye damage. Exposure of the skin to ammonia may cause severe burns and blistering. Exposure of the respiratory tract (mouth, nose and throat) to ammonia may cause runny nose, coughing, chest pain, severe breathing difficulties, severe burns and death. 

Ammonia may be found at particular J. J. White work locations, primarily facilities utilizing ammonia as a refrigerant gas. Ammonia is normally handled in closed systems with exposure only occurring when making openings in lines or related equipment for repairs. Exposure may also be encountered should a leak develop. Possible ways employees may be exposed to ammonia during their job functions can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Working on/near industrial refrigeration machinery rooms, equipment and/or piping
  • Working in petroleum refineries
  • Process areas that contain NH3 (mechanical rooms, ventilation systems, pipping systems)
  • Equipment or process releases/emergencies/leaks
  • Roof areas with ammonia handling systems designed to transport ammonia across a facility
  • Breaking/opening of lines or equipment that contained ammonia
  • Working with/near agricultural fertilizer.

Methods of Dissemination: 

  • Indoor Air: Ammonia can be released into indoor air as a liquid spray (aerosol) or as a vapor
  • Water: Ammonia can be used to contaminate water
  • Food: Ammonia is unlikely to contaminate food due to unpalatable qualities rendered to food
  • Outdoor Air: Ammonia can be released into outdoor air as a liquid spray (aerosol) or as a vapor
  • Agricultural: If ammonia is released into the air as a liquid spray (aerosol), it has the potential to contaminate agricultural products. If ammonia is released as a vapor, it is highly unlikely to contaminate agricultural products.

Routes of Exposure 

Ammonia can cause harm if inhaled and/or if it comes into contact with the eyes or skin. High concentrations of ammonia gas, liquid ammonia and solutions of ammonia can cause harm if inhaled or if they come into contact with eyes or skin.