Compressed air is generally considered the fourth utility in industrial, commercial and back-yard settings. It is used to power pneumatic equipment, cleaning surfaces, conveying materials, etc. The compressor reduces the volume inside a chamber to increase the pressure. The compressed air typically is contained in a reservoir tank for distribution to pneumatic equipment and devices. Since air is a compressible fluid it has stored energy; and, if not used properly, it can be hazardous. Most people perceive compressed air as harmless, but this is untrue. It can be very dangerous. Here are some potential risks when using compressed air:
- If the air pressure against the skin becomes greater than 30 PSI, air can penetrate through the membrane and cause an embolism which could be fatal. The term used is Dead-End pressure, any end-use nozzle or blowoff product cannot exceed 30 PSI dead-end pressure.
- Hearing damage can occur from exposure to loud noises from compressed air exhausting from pneumatic equipment or devices.
- Proper use of Safety Air Guns and Safety Air Nozzles is a must. They should not be modified or tampered with. For example, tying the trigger on an air gun for continuous blowing or modifying the nozzle to get a different blowing pattern.
- Compressed air can generate high velocities which can shoot chards of debris. The accelerated fragment can injure any part of the body even from bounce-back.
- If the air pressure is higher than the recommended rating for the equipment, uncontrolled eruptions can occur which can send broken pieces everywhere.
- When air hoses or lines are laying on the floor, near pinch points, or degrades from the environment, a break can occur causing unrestrained hose “whipping”.
Some safety precautions can be followed in your area when using compressed air products. They may seem basic, but they are commonly overlooked.
- Verify that all compressed air components are rated to be used for the maximum line pressure.
- Use shut-off valves nearby to isolate the system from the main compressed air line.
- Have general inspection on your compressed air system to check for pipe degradation, leaks, faulty pneumatics, etc.
- When you go to repair items attached to the compressed air line, make sure to use proper lockout procedures to isolate and remove the hazardous energy.
- Remember that compressed air is not a toy and use proper PPE when required.
- If any pneumatically operated product is damaged, remove it from service and either repair it or replace it.
In 1970, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, was enacted by the Department of Labor. This organization was created “to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women”. They created a set of laws and standards that they enforce with heavy fines and reoccurring visits if not followed. The Department of Labor lists these laws under title 29 in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). For general industry, these safety regulations are under part 1910 of 29 CFR. To give a few examples, 29 CFR 1910.242b gives the explanation about dead-end pressure. Under 29 CFR 1910.95a shows the maximum allowable noise exposure. The reason that I noted these two OSHA standards as they are commonly overlooked with Safety Air Guns, and commonly fined by OSHA for improper nozzles.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and EXAIR products can be a key. If you would like to discuss how to improve your workplace, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR. Because hazards and fines can be detrimental to your company when it comes to compressed air safety.