Cal/OSHA Issues Alert on Ammonia Safety at Wineries

The alert cites a September 2012 fatality that is under investigation.

A recent hazard alert posted by California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, reminds workers and managers at the state’s wineries about the dangers of anhydrous ammonia, which is used under pressure as a liquefied refrigerant. A worker died in September 2012 in an incident involving it, and the alert says the incident is still under investigation to find the root causes.

The document describes NH3 as a corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs, even at low concentrations in air. Exposure to 300 ppm is immediately dangerous to life and health.

The alert says ammonia refrigeration systems should be operated and maintained only by trained and competent personnel, and all employees should be trained on ammonia hazards, symptoms and detection of a release, and proper procedures for escape during an emergency.

Facilities using 10,000 pounds or more of anhydrous ammonia must comply with the state's Process Safety Management standard, while those using less must comply with regulations governing respiratory protection, HAZWOPER, Hazard Communication, injury and illness prevention programs, and emergency action plans.

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