Ammonia is used as refrigerant in microscale ice making plants in rural areas of India. Many of these are operated unmanned sometimes and thus NH3 leakage is a very common environmental hazard. Studies do not seem to have been reported on the safety management of this sector yet. In this light, the present article attempts to investigate into the safety management practices to such plants. In the first part, an assessment is made on the basis of various process-related data provided by the owners. For instance, the raw material consumptions are verified through subjective and objective judgments with scientific insights. In the second part, the differences existing in the safety management practices between the microscale and the small/medium-scale units during NH3 leakage are elucidated through case studies. Finally, few recommendations are put forward for strengthening the Indian safety management policies for ice making plants in rural India. Copyright © 2013 Curtin University of Technology and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.