In 1970, the United States Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This Act created both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The goal of both organizations is to ensure that workers, in any industry or field, have adequate protection from physical injury and health risks associated with the tools & equipment they operate, and environmental hazards in the spaces in which they operate. Workplace safety was a big deal to them.
Fifty plus years on, workplace safety is still a big deal, and not just to the federal government. At EXAIR, we have a program of continuing training on any and all safety concerns relevant to what we do here. This includes everything from pedestrian safety (not getting hit by a delivery truck in the parking lot, or a fork truck in the shop) to hazard communication (understanding the labels and safety data sheets for the cleaning compounds, adhesives, etc. used in the facility) to the procedures & personal protection equipment required for the use of compressed air products. Workplace safety is, and always has been, a big deal to us.
This culture of safety carries over to the design of our products as well. It’s arguably most important when we’re talking about products that operators hold in their hands…like our Safety Air Guns. To answer the question I posed in the title above, let’s consider the features of these products:
Engineered Air Nozzles: Regardless of any other features, the energy associated with the flow & force of the compressed air exiting the device is the first concern, and rightly so. Without a method of reducing the static pressure at the point of discharge to 30psi or less, there’ll be enough energy in the air flow to potentially break the skin if the device’s tip was dead-ended, with no place for that pressure to go. You can either reduce the supply pressure to 30psig or less (which means you’re not going to get a heck of a lot done unless it’s just lightweight debris you’re blowing off, AND you can get close enough to it), or you can use products like our Super Air Nozzles, which provide a relief path for that air flow, so the static pressure at the point of discharge never reaches 30psi, no matter what the supply pressure is. The design of all of our engineered Air Nozzles provides such a relief path, which complies with OSHA Standard 1910.242(b), which regulates the use of compressed air for cleaning…which is what almost all air guns are used for.
Ergonomic design: Across the board, a key feature in the design of EXAIR Safety Air Guns is to be easy on the hands, with comfortable grips and easy to pull triggers. From the molded thermoplastic construction of the VariBlast Precision models, to the cast aluminum construction of the VariBlast Compact, Soft Grip, Heavy Duty, and TurboBlast models, they’re all lightweight, and quite durable as well.
Engineered Air Nozzles part 2: The same design features that prevent them from being dead-ended also result in remarkable attenuation of the sound level generated by the air flow. By entraining an enormous amount of air from the surrounding environment (which results in a much lower operating cost than open-end type air guns), a lower velocity boundary layer develops around the higher velocity center air flow, resulting in much quieter operation. All but our largest Super Air Nozzles are compliant with OSHA Standard 1910.95 limits for maximum allowable noise exposure.
Chip Shields: OSHA Standard 1910.242(b), in addition to limiting dead-end pressure to prevent air embolisms from breaking the skin, also calls for “effective chip guarding” to prevent airborne debris being blown off by high velocity air flow from hitting the operator. This can be accomplished by the user via glove boxes (similar to a small parts sandblasting booth), a physical barrier like a piece of shatter resistant glass, plexiglass, Lexan, etc., or personal protective equipment like aprons, long gloves, or face shields. In case any of that is impractical, EXAIR has Chip Shields that fit our VariBlast Precision, VariBlast Compact, Soft Grip, and Heavy Duty Safety Air Guns. They’re clear polycarbonate discs that can be moved back & forth on a rigid aluminum extension pipe on the Safety Air Gun, so you can position them according to the needs of the application.
If workplace safety is as big a deal to you as it is to OSHA and EXAIR, I strongly recommend looking at what you’re using for handheld blow off applications right now, and how they stack up against EXAIR’s comprehensive line of Safety Air Guns. If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.
Russ Bowman, CCASS