Spring NH3 Accidents
The spring 2010 fertilizer season was two seasons rolled into one, no question. However, based on the calls we received at IFCA we could tell that there appeared to be more accidents with ammonia than usual. Concerned, we asked the IL Dept of Agriculture's Bureau of Ag Products Inspection management team to sit down with IFCA to review the spring season and discuss the types of accidents that occurred this spring, several of which resulted in injuries.
We had this meeting yesterday, and learned that in the spring of 2010, IDA investigated 45 accidents involving anhydrous ammonia. Compare that to the entire 2009 crop year, when in both the spring and the fall application season there were 21 total accidents, and in 2008, 27 total accidents. A hurried season almost certainly lends itself to more accidents, but it was also clear in reviewing the reports that the vast majority of the accidents occurred while the farmer was in possession of the ammonia. Many of the accidents could have been avoided by using the proper length of hose, and by ensuring that the tanks were properly secured to the tool bars.
IFCA will be working with the IDA and with ammonia equipment experts in our industry to develop a bulletin for our members and for farmers that highlights the need for special attention to equipment and operational issues to help reduce accidents. There is no question that the various nurse tank set-ups (single tanks, double mounted tanks, two tanks pulled in tandem behind the bars) is creating some issues regarding hose length and proper connections that need to be addressed. Regular maintenance of the tool bar quick couplers is also an area that needs attention. Many of these issues can be resolved with proper training and IFCA will work with the farm organizations prior to the fall season to encourage training, attention to safety procedures as well as the emergency response requirements that apply to farmers when a reportable release occurs.
We all recognize that the vast majority of ammonia and other forms of fertilizer were successfully and safely applied during a very busy 3 week season, thanks to the efforts of our members and your constant focus on safety. To ensure the long-term success and stewardship of ammonia, IFCA will continue to offer materials and programs to our industry as well as work closely with the farmer organizations to promote the serious need for more awareness and training for farmers regarding the handling of anhydrous ammonia.