Ammonia

*February 17, 2022 | WorkSafeBC has released a new risk advisory regarding fire or explosion in the use of anhydrous ammonia.

What is it?

Ammonia - also known as anhydrous ammonia or liquid ammonia is used in many applications in agriculture and industry including as a fertilizer, to make plastics, fibres and other chemicals, and as a refrigerant. It is a clear, colourless gas (or colourless liquid under pressure) with a telltale ammonia-like odour.

Which industries may be at risk?

Workplaces that use ammonia as a refrigerant or for other industrial processes may be at risk of fire or explosion. You may be at risk if your business involves:

  • food and beverage product manufacturing
  • cold storage
  • ice manufacturering

Risks

Risks to human health

Ammonia is very toxic and corrosive. Workers must avoid:

  • Inhalation
  • Skin contact
  • Eye contact
  • Ingestion
  • Chronic long-term exposure

Chemical risks

  • When ammonia contacts water it produces a poisonous vapour cloud
  • Ammonia reacts violently with strong oxidants, acids, halogens, and heavy metals
  • Liquid ammonia is corrosive to some plastics and rubber

Explosion and fire hazards

Ammonia is a flammable gas. High concentrations of airborne gas can be ignited and create a significant fire and explosions hazard – particularly in a confined space.

  • Ammonia containers can explode if heated
  • Ammonia mixed with gas or air forms an explosive mixture