Airguns, OSHA, And You

Depending on the context, those may be three words you DON’T want to hear in the same sentence. Case in point…a caller I spoke with recently, who works at a large steel forging plant. During a recent inspection, management was surprised (and disappointed) to find out that, unbeknownst to them, some of their operators had modified some of their compressed air blow off devices.

These modifications left them in violation of both OSHA Standard 1910.242(b) (limit on outlet, or dead end pressure) and 1910.95(a) (limits noise level exposure.)  The OSHA inspector left them with an $8,000.00 fine, and a promise to return with an even higher one if the situation wasn’t corrected.

We discussed the ways their current devices were supplied, the conditions they were operating in, what they were used for…and why the operators had modified them.  Sadly, we found the devices were underperforming due to air supply issues – hoses that were too small in diameter and/or too long, with restrictive quick connect fittings.  And some of their modifications (drilling out the discharge) just exacerbated those problems.

Most of their applications were pretty typical – blowing flash, chips, oil, coolant, etc. from processed metal parts.  Typical enough that a couple of EXAIR Safety Air Guns would allow them to determine what they would need, by taking them around to various stations in the plant and trying them out.

My caller ordered a Model 1210 Soft Grip Safety Air Gun with a Zinc Aluminum Super Air Nozzle (our most popular for typical blow off applications,) and a Model 1260 Soft Grip Safety Air Gun with a High Force 1/2 NPT Zinc Aluminum Super Air Nozzle (the most powerful one available on the Soft Grip Safety Air Gun.)

Here’s Model 1210-6-CS, fitted with a Zinc Aluminum Super Air Nozzle on a 6″ Rigid Extension & Chip Shield.  All EXAIR Safety Air Guns are compliant with OSHA Standard 1910.242(b).

I feel pretty good about the chances of publishing a future blog about the success of this application.  If you want to keep up, I encourage to follow the EXAIR blog – there’s a link to the right to provide your email address – for more on this one, other applications, and a wealth of expert writings on how to get the most out of your compressed air system.

As always, if you’d like to discuss a particular compressed air application and/or product selection, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Know What to Look For – Are Your Compressed Air Guns OSHA Safe?

One of the easiest ways to find out if your compressed air guns are safe for operation is by looking at the nozzle.  First, take your current compressed air gun and disconnect it from the compressed air line.  Second, look directly into the end of the nozzle where the air comes out.  If you can see the inside of the nozzle, then your air gun or blow-off device is unsafe.  Nine out of ten compressed air guns are considered to be dangerous.  In this blog, I will go through the dangers and violations of compressed air guns and nozzles that are very common in the market place.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, is an organization that enforces standards for safe and healthy working environments.  They have training, outreach programs, and educational assistance for manufacturing plant.  But, they will also enforce these standards with heavy fines for violations.  The two most common violations with compressed air guns and nozzles are 29CFR 1910.242(b) for dead-end pressure/chip shielding and 29CFR 1910.65(a) for maximum allowable noise exposure.  If you are unfortunate in receiving an audit, the OSHA agent will target your compressed air guns and blow-off devices.

Unsafe Nozzle

Here is the first example of a nozzle that I would like to discuss.  As you can see, there is only one opening where the air can come out from the nozzle.  Other types of nozzles that would fall into this category will include copper pipes, extensions, or worn nozzles.  They are dangerous as the compressed air cannot escape if it is blocked by your skin.  An air embolism could occur within the body which can cause bodily harm or death.  If operated above 30 PSIG (2 bar), these nozzles would violate the OSHA 29CFR 1910.242(b) for dead-end pressure.  This is a hazard which can be avoided by using EXAIR Super Air Nozzles and Safety Air Guns.  The nozzles are designed to utilize fins to allow air to escape and not penetrate your skin.  With EXAIR products, you will not violate this standard even if you go above the 30 PSIG (2 bar).

Safety Air Gun

To counteract the dead-end pressure violation, some nozzle manufacturers created a hole through the side of the nozzle (Reference photo below).  This will allow for the compressed air to escape, but, now the issue is noise level.  With an “open” section in the nozzle, the compressed air is very turbulent and very loud.  They state that 70% to 80% of all hearing loss within a manufacturing plant is caused by compressed air.  For this, OSHA 29CFR 1910.65(a) was created to show the maximum allowable noise exposure.  This chart shows the time and noise limits before requiring hearing protection.  The EXAIR Super Air Nozzles are designed to have laminar flow which is very quiet.  With our typical Safety Air Gun, model 1210, the sound level is only 74 dBA; well under the noise exposure limit for 8 hours.

Unsafe Air Gun
Hearing loss is the best known, but not the only, ill effect of harmful noise exposure. It can also cause physical and psychological stress, impair concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents or injuries.

Why do I bring these points up?  Because safety is everyone’s responsibility.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, has an overview of how to handle hazards in the workplace.  They call it the Hierarchy of Controls (click).  This is a means to best protect workers from dangers.  The most effective way is by eliminating the hazard or substituting the hazard.  The least effective way is with Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.  For your unsafe compressed air nozzles and guns, EXAIR can help by substituting the hazardous air gun and nozzle with an engineered solution designed with safety in mind.

In my opening statement, I explained a quick and easy method to determine if your compressed air guns are dangerous.  To keep your company compliant and safe, EXAIR offers a variety of different types of nozzles and Safety Air Guns to best fit your requirement.  If you find that you are using hazardous blowing equipment, you can contact an Application Engineer to find a safe and effective alternative.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Standards, Compliance, And You. And EXAIR.

I’m pretty impressed with the number of safety features my car has. Aside from the literal lifesaving functions like seat belts and air bags, it’s got anti-lock brakes…if you’ve ever had to counter-steer out of a skid on an icy road, you will appreciate the value of this for sure.  Those are just some of the ones I’m keenly aware of – the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards comprise dozens of regulations in three categories: crash avoidance, crashworthiness, and post-crash survivability.  None of these prevent me from operating my vehicle at an unsafe rate of speed…an expensive reality that an Ohio State Highway Patrolman dutifully reminded me of last Sunday afternoon.

Likewise, there are many regulations to ensure safety and prevent hazards of all kinds in industry, administered by a host of agencies that are either subordinates of, or accountable to, the federal government.  When you manufacture products that are used with high energy sources (compressed air or high voltage electricity,) a strong commitment to safety is not negotiable.  So, at EXAIR, we commit considerable resources towards the best engineering and manufacturing practices to make our products as safe as possible.  That includes compliance with a number of standards and certifications:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor.  Their mission is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”  They are a regulatory body in the truest sense, in that they don’t offer certification or approval of products, processes, etc.; they publish guidelines and standards for manufacturers and users to comply with.  OSHA Standard 1910.242(b), for instance, limits the downstream pressure of a compressed air operated device used for cleaning purposes to 30psi. Now, you can regulate the supply pressure to meet this, but that also limits the effectiveness of the air flow generated.  EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products are all designed and manufactured to be in compliance with this standard, at any supply pressure.  Take, for example, our Super Air Nozzles:

Because none of our products can be dead-ended, there’s always a relief path preventing the downstream pressure from exceeding that level.

OSHA also has Standard 1910.95(a), that sets limits for maximum allowable noise exposure.  All EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, with the exception of some our largest and most power Super Air Nozzles (which aren’t normally used in areas that don’t already require hearing protection anyway) meet the 8-hour exposure limits of this standard.

Hearing loss is the best known, but not the only, ill effect of harmful noise exposure. It can also cause physical and psychological stress, impair concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents or injuries.

CE marking indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold withing the European Economic Area.  Unlike OSHA standards, responsibility for CE marking falls solely with the seller of the product – a CE marked product has been tested and certified to have been made in such a way to meet safety & quality benchmarks specified for that type of product.  All EXAIR products that are defined under applicable directives have been tested according to these standards, and carry the CE mark.

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, or RoHS, is another standard borne from the European Union, and is geared towards public & workplace safety by restricting the use of hazardous materials in the manufacture of electronic & electrical equipment.  Since its inception in 2006, similar standards have been vigorously adopted around the globe.  Electrical portions of EXAIR’s Static Eliminators, EFC Electronic Flow Controls, ETC Electronic Temperature Controls, Digital Flowmeters, Solenoid Valves, and Thermostats all comply with the RoHS Directive.

Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act doesn’t address a concern for product users, but rather a particularly troubling human rights issue – Conflict Minerals.  For almost two decades, trade in tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been used by some very bad people to finance violent campaigns against their neighbors.  EXAIR thoroughly and systematically documents our supply chain compliance with this act.  We are proudly committed to our support for this effort to the world a better place for everyone…especially those in desperate circumstances beyond their control.

EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products have been successfully implemented into a variety of uses where application- or industry-specific standards are in force.  We’re happy to work with you to determine if our products meet those standards…or can be made to meet them.  If you’ve got such an application, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Safety Air Guns – Using Engineered Air Nozzles For High Performance

Inexpensive air guns can be picked up just about anywhere, and you generally get what you pay for. Most will be very noisy and waste lots of compressed air.  And many will be unsafe, violating two of OSHA’s standards put in place to protect worker safety. The first is Standard 29 CFR 1910.95(a) which sets limits to the maximum noise exposure, and the second is Standard 29 CFR 1910.242(b) which says that the nozzle cannot be dead-ended, or exceed a 30 PSIG pressure limit.

These guns may seem like a perfect fit for a handheld blowoff application. The truth is, the cost saved up front will easily be paid throughout the cost of ownership.  This is due to the lack of an engineered nozzle which meets and exceeds the OSHA standards mentioned above.   The “cheap” guns often have a cross drilled hole to meet or exceed the OSHA standard for dead-end pressure. While this may be true, it causes a large wind sheer which escalates noise levels to well over the allowable noise level exposure set by OSHA.  These tips sometimes offer large force outputs because they are equivalent to an open pipe.  We have publicized numerous times about how an open pipe blow off does not permit pressure to be utilized all the way to the point of blowoff, and is also a waste of energy.

In order to determine how much compressed air your current blow guns utilize, the level of noise they product, and the sound level they produce, consider taking advantage of the EXAIR Efficiency Lab.  The Efficiency Lab is a free service that you can read more about here.

An EXAIR Safety Air Gun is engineered and designed to comply both of the OSHA standards mentioned above, ensuring safe operation for company personnel.  On top of the safety designed into the guns, we also ensure all of our guns are efficient by offering only engineered nozzles on them.

EXAIR offers (4) types of Safety Air Guns – the VariBlast, the Soft Grip, the Heavy Duty, and the Super Blast.  Each type of Safety Air Gun is offered with a plethora of nozzles, as well as varying length extensions, with or without the Chip Shield.

Safety Air Guns
The VariBlast, Soft Grip and Heavy Duty Style of Pistol Grip Safety Air Guns
Super Blast
The Super Blast Style of Safety Air Gun

 

We invite you to try out an EXAIR Safety Air Gun, and get the free 1″ Wide Flat Super Air Nozzle as a bonus. Click here for more details about this special promotional offer.

To discuss your application and how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can improve your process, feel free to contact EXAIR, myself, or one of our other Application Engineers. We can help you determine the best solution!

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Better Understand Your Blowoff Process with EXAIR’s FREE Efficiency Lab

panoramic view
The EXAIR Efficiency Lab

Many customers may not have the means to test the air consumption of their blowoff solutions. With compressed air being the most expensive utility in a manufacturing facility, it’s important to identify places where you can save money on your overall operating costs. EXAIR manufacturers a wide variety of products intended to help you reduce your compressed air usage. If you’re not able to accurately measure the consumption in your own shop, we invite you to send the products into EXAIR for testing. With EXAIR’s Award Winning Efficiency Lab, just simply contact an Application Engineer, box them up and send them to our warehouse in Cincinnati, Ohio.

EXAIR Efficiency Lab

Once we receive it, our engineers will complete some in-depth testing to determine the compressed air consumption, sound level, and force that your current solution provides. With this information, we’ll be able to compare it to an EXAIR Engineered Solution. This way we ensure that you receive the best, safest solution possible also capable of saving money through reduced air consumption and improved efficiency.  We’ll send you back a comprehensive report that’ll help you to make the best decision for your company.

I’ve been recently working with a customer that sent in one of the nozzles they’re using across all their CNC machines. They wanted us to test it out and see if we’re able to offer them something that could reduce their overall compressed air usage. The nozzle was one of the cheap plastic varieties and was attached to a commonly used modular hose. This type of modular hose is not designed for operating under high pressures. These hoses are more suitable for liquid coolant or air that is at or below atmospheric pressure.

IMG_7486
Inefficient and unsafe plastic nozzle

After testing, we found that at 80 psig the nozzle consumed 3.85 SCFM and produced a force of 1.92 oz. We also noticed that after 60 psig, the nozzle began to leak due to a poor seal where the nozzle met the brass hex. The EXAIR nozzle most suitable to replace this was the 1108SS. At just 2.5 SCFM at 80 psig, replacing the plastic nozzle with an engineered solution saves them 35% of their overall consumption for this blowoff. With close to 1000 of these nozzles in operation, that adds up quickly!!

In addition to increasing efficiency, replacing these nozzles also greatly increases overall worker safety. The sound level is reduced from 73 dBA to just 58 dBA and EXAIR’s nozzles also adhere to OSHA 1910.242(b). The plastic nozzles could be dead-ended, posing a hazard that can result in costly fines. These fines are assessed per infraction, so having multiple non-compliant nozzles can easily get very expensive if you’re subject to an unannounced visit by an OSHA inspector.

If you think you may have an opportunity to improve upon your existing blowoff methods, give us a call. We’ll be happy to take a closer look and have you send the product back to EXAIR for a quick trial in our Efficiency Lab. You’ll be glad you did!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mal: TylerDaniel@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Engineered Nozzles Replace Segmented Coolant Hose for Ink Drying Application

flat nozzle loc line comparison
Segmented Hose on the left and an HP1126 1″ Flat Nozzle on the right

A common item that can be found in a majority of machine shops is the blue or gray knuckle-jointed hose used to dispense coolant on lathes and CNC machines. EXAIR also uses this same hose with our Cold Guns and Adjustable Spot Coolers for applications that cannot or do not wish to use liquid coolant as a means of keeping the heat down on their tooling. Since the cold air discharges at atmospheric pressure, this is an acceptable application. Another application is using this style of hose as a compressed air blowoff. This is NOT a proper use of the hose and is not only a considerable waste of compressed air but can also pose a safety hazard. Using this method for compressed air blowoff is not compliant with OSHA 1910.242(b) (a directive we blog about).

I was recently contacted by a customer in Indonesia that was using an array of (6) of these knuckle-jointed hoses with a ¼” round nozzle attachment for a blowoff operation. The customer had a series of rubber pads used in the construction of a toy castle. The pads were brought along by an overhead conveyor and a design was printed on the head of the pad. The nozzles were used to dry the ink before the pad made it to the next part of the process. This was a new product line and the processes involved were being evaluated for potential places to save on compressed air rather than adding overall capacity to their system. After using a variety of EXAIR products for other blowoff applications, they came back for another engineered solution.

After testing both a 1009-9280 (Adjustable Air Nozzle w/ 30” Stay Set Hose) and an HP1126-9280 (1” High Power Flat Nozzle w/ 30” Stay Set Hose), the customer determined that the airflow pattern from the 1” Flat Nozzle was more conducive to drying the rubber pad and purchased the remaining units to replace their original method. The compressed air savings was noticed immediately!!

For the old operation, they had to regulate the pressure down on the hose to 25 psig so that the hose wouldn’t break apart. (1) This hose , with a ¼” round nozzle, will consume 52 scfm at 25 psig of supply pressure. With (6) of these they were consuming a whopping 312 scfm!! Since the HP1126 is compliant with OSHA directive 1910.242(b) and will not break apart at higher pressures, they were able to operate at 80 psig while only consuming 17.5 scfm. They saved more than enough air for their new process and are evaluating whether or not they can turn off one of their smaller 25 HP compressors.

The new setup with the EXAIR engineered solution was able to save them 207 scfm of compressed air. Assuming a cost of $.25/1000 scfm and a 40 hr work week, this translates to an overall savings of $6,458.40 per year off of their utility bill.

207 scfm x 60 minutes x 8 hrs/day x 5 shifts/week x 52 weeks/year =25,833,600 scf

25,833,600 scf x ($.25/1000 scf) = $6,458.40

If you’re using an inefficient compressed air blowoff in your facility, give us a call. An Application Engineer will be happy to evaluate your process and determine the safest and most efficient solution. With same day shipment for stock items on orders placed by 3:00 pm EDT, we can get a solution out to you by the following day!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

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