Guideline for safe handling & storage of solid fertilizers

Safe handling & Storage

Ammonium nitrate (AN) based fertilizers have to be stored correctly according to the guidelines provided by the fertilizer industry and affiliated associations to avoid contamination of surface and ground water, as they can be an environmental threat.

Borealis L.A.T fertilizers containing less than 80 % AN and less than 28 % nitrogen (N) are classified as non-hazardous, generally non-flammable and non-combustible in the course of progressive thermal decomposition. However, AN fertilizers with high N content (greater than 28 %) behave like strong oxidizing agents which may cause eye irritation. They are considered as hazardous goods in transport (ADR).

Perserve the Quality of fertilizers

Store fertilizers away from heat and below 32 °C. Provide a venting system and sufficient safety space between the roof and the top of the stack.

Respect the First In – First Out (FIFO) rule and keep up-todate records of fertilizer stock.

Keep AN based fertilizers well separated from urea. 

Always store fertilizers in a dry and clean place. For all storage boxes whose bottoms are not 100 % watertight, Borealis L.A.T recommends using Absodan or Terraperl - formerly Terramol - (sold by IMERYS Absorbent - formerly Damolin) as bedding. Spreading 1 – 2 kg of this material per m² helps keep bags dry.

Packed Fertilizers

Be sure to prevent any contact with water (from the ground or water-permeable flooring, leaky roofs, open doors and skylights), if necessary use pallets.

In case of outdoors storage, it is recommended never to expose bagged fertilizers to direct sunlight, store in a shady and ventilated place. If there is no alternative, use a light colored plastic covering or a tarpaulin to protect the big bags.

Bulk Storage

Cover bulk storage with an incombustible plastic covering or tarpaulin. 

Avoid the risk of spillage by not overloading. Keep aisles and pathways clean and cleared. If spillage occurs, clean up immediately. Do not drive across spilled product.

Good Storage practice

It is recommended to store big bags always overlapping in pyramid form with a maximum of two layers. There has to be an additional single layer row at the front side. Remove the big bags from the top to the bottom. During the full process of loading or unloading keep the pyramid form of the stack at all time.

When handling fertilizers, take care not to damage the goods. In case of damage, do not approach big bags, as they may get unstable and fall over, crushing people standing next to it. 

Do not allow anyone to stand near the stored big bags stacks. Allow for a safety distance to walking areas. Do not allow pallets or big bags to tilt or be stacked on an incline. 

Pallets should be stacked directly on each other to a maximum of two layers, with the front line only in one layer (similar principle to big bag storage). 

Fertilizers stored in steep heaps should be removed from top to bottom to minimize the risk of large amounts falling down suddenly. When working at heaps always pay attention to this risk.

Safety Rules

Never smoke, consume food or beverages where fertilizers are stored.

Fertilizers must be stored separately from:

  • Petrol; organic or combustible materials such as oils and fats, sawdust, grain, seeds, grass, straw; and metal salts such as chromate, zinc, copper, nickel and cobalt compounds; compressed gases; phytosanitary products
  • Highly alkaline materials like quicklime, cement and loose metal slag
  • Substances like hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid, potassium chloride, ammonium sulphate and sodium chloride
  • Direct sources of heat such as furnaces, welding and grinding work, lamps, switches, electrical cables, overheated machinery parts or any source that could create hotspots or sparks

Vehicles should not be parked in the storage areas unless being loaded or unloaded. They have to be free from oil or fuel leaks.

Safe handling of fertilizers

Always use lifting forks with rounded edges in order to avoid damage to the lifting straps of the big bags. Put big bags or pallets always on flat ground and avoid friction of big bags with the ground during transport. Be careful when filling up the fertilizer dispenser. When handling fertilizers, do not allow anyone to stand in the area of lifting/transportation or beneath a raised big bag. When handling fertilizers, take care not to damage the goods and avoid swinging of the big bag to ensure the overall stability of the machine. Wearing a high visibility vest can reduce the risk of being hit by any machine or vehicle. Big bags should be cut open at the bottom with a long-handled knife. Always stand on the side of the big bag to avoid risk of being crushed. Empty big bags are not reusable and have to be returned to an approved recycling contractor. The recycling logos on such big bags indicate that Borealis L.A.T contributes to environmental protection.

Fertilizer hazards

Chemical reaction can lead to decomposition of fertilizers with toxic fumes (nitrogen oxide, ammonia) in case of external heat (hotspot, fire…), in particular with fertilizers containing nitrogen.

Fertilizers with AN (>28% nitrogen) when stored correctly are safe, however they can detonate if several extreme conditions are present simultaneously like:

  • Extreme heat which melts fertilizers
  • Gas emissions without adequate ventilation system (creating high pressure)
  • Contamination with other chemicals such as fuel oil, organic material…
  • Conditions that can cause an explosion (gas bottle, projectiles)

For further details read health and safety information provided in the product safety datasheet (www.borealis-lat.com).

General Precautions

Avoid dust formation and contact with skin, eyes and clothing. Check and clean the PPE (personal protective equipment) regularly to keep up its preventive condition.

Emergency response in case of fire

Post an up-to-date map of storage facilities and an emergency evacuation plan in an easily accessible place and inform staff of emergency procedures.

In the event of fire (of combustible material) or emission of fumes (from fertilizers):

1. Call fire brigade 112 (European emergency number): specify the location and the type of fertilizers

2. Do not inhale the fumes

3. Evacuate the area

4. Evacuate other people without endangering yourself

5. Secure the installation (e.g. disconnect the power)

For firefighting use large amounts of water, do not use chemical extinguishers, foam, steam or sand on fertilizers based on AN, because they are decomposing.

The following points are specific for fertilizers containing at least 16 % of nitrogen in relation to AN (i.e. at least 8 % of nitric nitrogen & 8 % of ammoniacal nitrogen)

Protect fertilizer storage facilities from unauthorized access to minimize the risk of theft (locked premises) and maintain an up-to-date inventory to be able to determine quickly whether theft has occurred.

Do not leave or store big bags with fertilizers on the roadside, in the field or other areas available to public. Report immediately any stock discrepancy or loss to the police. You also need to contact the relevant national contact point for fertilizer theft. 

Neither give free nor sell product except to professional user. Keep all accompanying documents (delivery notes, invoice, batch traceability).