Compressed Air Has Tremendous Power! Use It Safely

Just the other day, not far from here, a demolition crew at a shuttered factory and a local homeowner got this message, loud & clear, when the crew inadvertently cut into a still-pressurized compressed air cylinder.  It launched, like a missile (an apt description, given the fact that real missiles operate on this exact same principle) some 1,500 feet, across the neighborhood, and into the bedroom of a house, three blocks away.  Here’s what the local news reported on it:

Now, before you go turn your air compressor off and vent your system, let’s look at just a couple of other incredible dangers we place ourselves in close proximity to every day:

Driving a car: I came to work this morning in a 3,500lb mass of metal, plastic, and glass, hurtling at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)  This would be an insane thing to do, were it not for:

*The engineering, design, and maintenance that makes the vehicle safe to operate,

*The training, experience, and periodic re-licensing required to maintain driving privileges,

*The upkeep of roadways, bridges, traffic signals, etc., and

*The monitoring and enforcement of traffic safety measures by our law enforcement officers.

Operating electrically powered devices:  if you’re reading this on a computer screen, you’re likely surrounded by objects that are connected directly to 120 volts of alternating current electricity.  That stuff will stop your heart.  Thank goodness all that current is contained, isolated, and grounded to keep it out of our bodies, even when we have to touch the controls to turn those devices on & off.

Food: Don’t even get me started on the hazards of ingesting plant & animal product that used to live outside and was processed for transport hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of miles away.  It’s a wonder any of us have made it this long.  Well, except for the development and rigorous implementation of food safety and sanitation practices & policy.

Working with compressed air is no different.  A typical plant compressed air system will operate at about 100psig.  That literally means that there is ONE HUNDRED POUNDS OF FORCE being exerted on EACH AND EVERY SQUARE INCH of the inside of the pipes, hoses, tanks, etc., in the system.  If you don’t keep it under control, you can have some serious problems.  Fortunately, there are simple, straightforward, and easily accessible ways to do that.

This is not going to be a comprehensive guide, but let’s start with:

Design: Your piping and components have to be the proper pressure rating.  We’ve got some good piping information on our websiteAlso, keep your vehicle well maintained, periodically check your electric devices for frayed cables, and look at your meat packages’ labels for a USDA stamp and “use by” date.

Our Compressed Air Piping web page is a valuable resource for safety AND efficiency (left.) Don't rely on smell or color; food package labels are your best indication of food safety (right.)
Our Compressed Air Piping web page is a valuable resource for safety AND efficiency (left.) Don’t rely on smell or color; package labels are your best indication of food safety (right.)

Controls: Make sure you’re using your compressed air safely.  OSHA Regulation 1910.242(b) governs the use of compressed air when used for cleaning purposes…it limits you to no more than 30psi of downstream, static pressure at the discharge of your blow off device.  EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products comply with this regulation, by design.  Also, watch your speed on the highway, don’t plug too many strands of Christmas tree lights in to one outlet, and always cook chicken to an internal temperature of at least 165F (73.9C)

EXAIR Super Air Nozzles are fully OSHA Compliant - certificated available upon request (left.) Your power strip and Christmas tree light strands should both be labeled with their amperage ratings. Check these to make sure you don't overload the circuit (right.)
EXAIR Super Air Nozzles are fully OSHA Compliant – certificate available upon request (left.) Your power strip and Christmas tree light strands should both be labeled with their amperage ratings. Check these to make sure you don’t overload the circuit (right.)

Personal Protective Equipment: Any time you’re working with compressed air, you should be wearing eye protection and using appropriate chip guards to keep flying debris from coming back at you.  Certain applications may require more safeguards…check with your compliance coordinator or supervisor to make sure.  Also, don’t shift out of ‘park’ without your seat belt fastened, take care to unplug any appliance before servicing it, and don’t skimp on a decent pair of oven mitts if you plan on making a lot of baked goods.

EXAIR Safety Air Guns can be fitted with Chip Shields for OSHA Compliance (left.) Oven mitts come in all shapes & sizes - it would be illogical to reach for that lasagna without them (right.)
EXAIR Safety Air Guns can be fitted with Chip Shields for OSHA Compliance (left.) Oven mitts come in all shapes & sizes – it would be illogical to reach for that lasagna without them (right.)

EXAIR has been making quiet, efficient, and safe compressed air products for 34 years now.  If you ever have any questions about the safe use of compressed air, give us a call and ask for an Application Engineer.  No; compressed air isn’t safe, in and of itself…but it CAN be used safely…and that’s the important part.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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ef2d_star_trek_oven_mitt picture courtesy of Cozinhando Fantasias

d2590-1 picture courtesy of US Department of Agriculture

Holiday fire safety – Power strip overloaded picture courtesy of State Farm

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