How to Meet the OSHA Compressed Air Standard

Every day we talk to customers who need to comply with OSHA regulations for using compressed air to clean up their shop or product. Back in 1972 on Valentine’s Day, OSHA published Directive Number STD01-13-001 standard 1910.242(b), which strives to provide guidance on how manufacturers can safely use compressed air for cleaning purposes to comply with the Walsh-Healey Act of 1936.  This directive laid out acceptable methods for complying with 41CFR 50-204.8 and 29 CFR 1910.242(b)

The two methods are very simple, but still many people have questions.  The first method (pictured below) is to regulate the line pressure from the compressor to below 30 PSIG.

Regulator Method

Figure 1 Regulator method Photo Courtesy of osha.gov

The second method is to install a nozzle engineered to reduce the static pressure of the nozzle to less than 30 PSIG.

OSHA Nozzle Method

Figure 2 Nozzle method Photo Courtesy of osha.gov

The first method reduces the danger by limiting the energy in the system to less than an amount which can injure a person.  OSHA determined that 30 PSIG was the safe limit for the amount of pressure the human body could withstand without causing severe injury. The problem with this method is that cleaning with compressed air at 30 psig is virtually impossible.  Which means at such a low pressure the operator must pass the nozzle so close to the chips and debris, he might as well use a broom or pick each piece of debris up with his fingers. This first method I will label the regulator method. The second method introduces a relief valve at the nozzle, so that an operator cannot block off all of the openings of the nozzle, and build up any static pressure on their skin. I will call this the nozzle method.

Commonly and cheaply, the nozzle method is done by cross drilling a hole in an open pipe.  This is a sometimes effective method for protecting employees from static pressure, but it also is great at producing a tremendous amount of noise and wasting a lot of compressed air every year. The noise produced by even a ¼ pipe with a cross drilled hole fed with 80 PSIG can easily exceed 90 dBA and consume up to 140 SCFM. The noise can be even louder, if there are burrs or rough edges from drilling out the pipe.  This is also a violation of OSHA standard 29 CFR – 1910.95 (a), if the employee is not using hearing protection.

Air Nozzle work

To meet this OSHA standard, EXAIR’s solution is to engineer features which cannot be dead-ended into a wide variety of compressed air products. We do this a variety of ways depending on the product.  For the Super Air Nozzles, we utilize multiple small orifices which are protected by raised fins.  The multiple orifices offer an escape path for the air in case a single orifice is plugged. The fins protect the orifices so that no one person can block more than one orifice at a time.

So if you are worried about an OSHA inspector knocking on your door, or maybe you aren’t sure if you should be worried, contact us.  The Application Engineering team here will help you determine what engineered solution you need to keep those pesky fines away.

Dave Woerner
Application Engineer
Davewoerner@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_DW

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