Agrium representatives actively participated in the grassroots development of ResponsibleAg, a joint venture between the Agriculture Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute. The U.S.-based safety program began in early 2014 as a proactive means of demonstrating commitment to the safe, secure storage and handling of fertilizer products such as ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia at retail agribusiness facilities.
To become certified, specially trained, independent auditors must inspect a facility every three years to verify adherence to applicable federal laws. In April 2015, Agrium’s farm center in Hillsboro, Tennessee became the first facility to become ResponsibleAg certified. At 2015 yearend, 74 Agrium facilities were credentialed and ready to be certified. The rest of our 900 U.S. facilities are participating and committed to becoming certified by the end of 2018. One of Agrium’s safety leaders currently serves as ResponsibleAg’s Board Chair.
Read more about Agrium’s commitment to ResponsibleAg.
Although common in nature and in wide use, ammonia (NH3) is both caustic and hazardous in its concentrated form. In addition, secure storage of nitrogen products is a focus at our facilities because anhydrous ammonia can be used to produce crystal methamphetamine, and ammonium nitrate can be used to make crude explosives. We have conducted risk assessments on all of our storage facilities and implemented relevant security measures, which include fencing, locking, alarm systems and surveillance cameras.
Although the criminal use of anhydrous ammonia has significantly reduced over the past few years, our industry continues its work with non-profit groups to increase awareness about anhydrous ammonia safety. Industry associations, law enforcement and government agencies continue to work together to protect against the illegal use of chemicals.
Agrium stopped producing agricultural-grade solid ammonium nitrate in 2005, in part due to the potential risk of criminal misuse of the product. The vast majority of ammonium nitrate we produce for agricultural use is in the form of non-explosive liquid solutions. We continue producing industrial-grade ammonium nitrate for a small number of customers in the mining industry who are registered and approved by regulatory bodies.
A comprehensive industry-wide review of the storage and handling of ammonium nitrate occurred after another company’s facility exploded in West, Texas in 2013. Our process safety experts helped create a new, industry-leading standard in safe handling and storage as part of the American National Standards Institute. In 2015, we upgraded all of our U.S. facilities to this new standard. Agrium also has been supportive of applying new process safety management (PSM) rules at our, and other, agricultural retail sites in the U.S. We are in the process of upgrading our assets and programs to meet the rules. As well, we assisted Asmark Institute in developing related PSM implementation resources.
Agrium adheres to industry-developed codes of practice for storing, handling and transporting anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate throughout our operations in North America. A non-accidental ammonia release (NAR) is the unintentional release or leak of ammonia during loading, dispensing or transportation of the product that is not caused by a derailment, collision or other rail-related accident. In most cases, a NAR is the result of improper seals, worn out equipment or operator error. We have achieved zero NARs since 2013, while dispatching more than 12,000 ammonia shipments per year. In 2012, we began implementing targeted improvements throughout our transportation network of 190 rail locations. For example, we require rail spur locations that handle hazardous materials to undergo a yearly third-party inspection. Since 2013, Agrium has had a partnership with a major car supplier to develop a new tank car that is anticipated to be significantly safer than any available on the market today. In 2015, Agrium agreed to have UTLX Manufacturing produce 400 improved ammonia tank cars for incorporation into the Agrium private fleet. These measures exceed regulations.
The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration implemented a Global Harmonization System of classification, handling, packaging and communication of hazardous materials in 2015. Agrium now adheres to this new system in all of our U.S. and Canadian locations, and as part of this compliance, we maintain a comprehensive database of all our customers and communicate up-to-date product information to them through the prompt distribution of safety data sheets and labels.
We continue to support programs that provide safety and education to youth in rural communities. Agrium is a major sponsor of the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, a program that provides guidance and resources to communities in the U.S. and Canada to organize one-day farm safety programs that are fun and interesting for children. While the basic program reaches children between the ages of eight and thirteen, safety days may also be conducted for four- to seven-year-olds, or even for the entire family. With Agrium's direct support, this program expanded to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and with the help of our South American Retail Operations, Agroservicios Pampeanos S.A., 22 Safety Days took place in 2015.
In 2011, we became a founding partner in Ag for Life. The organization’s mandate is to develop and offer educational programming that improves farm safety and builds understanding and appreciation for agriculture’s contribution to society, the environment and the economy.
Shelter-in-Place is a short-term strategy for dealing with chemical or radiological contaminant disaster. It is an internationally-used safety program for taking immediate shelter where you are — at home, work, school or in between — usually for just a few hours.
Find out more about our Shelter-in-Place program with our video and PDF brochure.