We Can Survive a Farm Accident

Between the Fencerows

Ammonia can be deadly, but dad is OK

Published on: January 29, 2014

Last week my father, Brad, was injured in a farm accident. My father has always been over zealous in stressing safety on the farm, almost to the point that I am tired of hearing about it. We don't assign employees "high risk" tasks. Dad always makes sure we use safety locks in any work that involved being under equipment. He always reminds us to wear safety glasses.

In this particular situation I had started to unload a load of aqua ammonia into our farm storage tanks. Knowing we were near capacity, dad came down to supervise. I had left for the office. There were no problems, the trucker had finished pumping product and was purging the lines. Dad was shutting off the values. What happened next? In a combination of things, including extremely cold weather and focus on paperwork he was doing in the office earlier, dad didn't get the ball valve all the way shut. The sight gauge line came off and gave him a complete bath head to toe.

Familiar with anhydrous ammonia, dad knew how dangerous it can be.  Aqua ammonia is a watered down form of anhydrous. In liquid form, it is not as dangerous but still an inhalation hazard (including possible immediate death). It also includes chloride and has a very high pH. It has a high affinity for water, including moisture in skin/tissue.

Dad was standing next to the valve and saw the hose come off. He immediately turned around, closed his eyes, and held his breath. Somehow he reached down to finish shutting off the rest of the valve and climbed the four-foot dike and yelled for help from the trucker.

Dad tells me he took his coat off and used it to wipe off his head area, threw the coat down and took a big breath. The driver heard him yell, and he helped him to the house. Dad wasn't really able to see because his eyes had been exposed to the aqua.

It was approximately 300 feet to the house. The door was locked, so he had to use the keypad to open the garage door. He stripped down as much as he could and got in the shower. He stayed there while my wife called 911.

As far as we know, he did everything he should have. 

Hospital treatment

After getting out of the shower and quickly getting dressed the medical staff arrived and took him to the hospital for treatment. Dad's experience and common sense had protected him in many ways. He came home later in the day with the diagnosis of 'minor chemical abrasion to right eye' and is recovering. He currently has difficulty seeing out of that eye. Because it was so cold and all the clothes he had on, only his face and head area was exposed.

Now, dad asked me to tell this story to remind all of us that even with continually stressing safety, accidents can and do happen. He felt so strongly about this, he actually typed out the outline for this blog about 36 hours after the accident while he could only see out of one eye.

So, please once again think about what you are doing and don't let the activities of the day take precedence over your safety. Keep your mind on your work. And know what your plan is in case of an accident.