If you've worked with anhydrous ammonia over the years, especially at an ag dealership, chances are you may have met or talked to Rodney 'RC' Smith. He worked with the Office of Indiana State Chemist for more than 33 years.
Sadly he died on May 19 from injuries suffered as a result of a hit-and-run accident while he was bicycling on May 14.
Smith was known both statewide and nationally for his comprehensive knowledge of anhydrous ammonia equipment and how to work around it safely. He was an expert at detecting signs of fatigue in storage equipment and nurse tanks.
Part of the job he took most seriously was educating those who used anhydrous ammonia equipment on how to prevent equipment failures, and how to handle the product safely.
Smith and others would often give demonstrations on how to handle anhydrous ammonia safely. The biggest danger to farmers pulling a nurse tank behind an applicator is that if a hose comes loose or a valve malfunctions and they get it in their eyes, they have a real chance of losing all or part of their eyesight without immediate action. The ammonia seeks out fluids and dries out the eyes immediately.
That's why nurse tanks are required to carry a water reservoir on the side of the tank. Check to see if nurse tanks have the reservoir when you pick them up from your dealer and if they are full and in working order.
Matt Pearson, a colleague at the Office of Indiana State Chemist, believes Smith's efforts are partly responsible for why Hoosiers have used this product without major incidents for many years.
Indiana Prairie Farmer extends condolences to his family and co-workers. The best way to honor his memory, colleagues say, is to continue to educate yourself about anhydrous ammonia, and handle it safely.