What OSHA 1910.242(b) Means For Compressed Air Product Users

Medically speaking, our skin is an organ…and an amazing one at that. It protects our internals from an incredibly harsh environment as we’re bombarded by radiation (sunlight), subjected to summer’s heat & the cold of winter, attacked by fierce invaders (from viruses & bacteria to insects & spiders), all while we carry on at the bottom of a 60 mile-deep ocean (of air!)

Our skin requires some protection too: Sunscreen mitigates some of the harmful effects of solar radiation, shoes protect our feet from the ground, gloves & coats prevent frostbite, and compliance with OSHA Standard 1910.242(b) protects operators who use compressed air devices for cleaning purposes from air embolisms. That’s when air, under pressure, has enough energy to break the skin (tough as it is) and reach the tissue underneath. It’s painful, and serious enough that the victim should absolutely seek emergency medical treatment. If the air breaks a blood vessel and enters the pulmonary system, it can be deadly, in a hurry.

In 1971, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) determined that air under pressure higher than 30 pounds per square inch is capable of causing such injuries, if the pressurized source is dead-ended into the skin. Based on this determination, they included the following verbiage in Standard 1910.242, regulating the safe operation of hand and portable powered tools & equipment:


1910.242(b) Compressed air used for cleaning. Compressed air shall not be used for cleaning purposes except where reduced to less than 30 p.s.i. and then only with effective chip guarding and personal protective equipment.


In February 1972, OSHA issued Instruction STD 01-13-001 to clarify the meaning of 1910.242(b), with two illustrations of acceptable methods to meet compliance. The first is the use of a pressure reducer (or regulator):

While this method is compliant with the OSHA Standard, it’s kind of impractical, since you’re not going to get a whole lot of cleaning done with such a low energy air flow. If that’s not bad enough, it’s STILL going to be loud, and wasteful as far as the cost of compressed air goes.

The other method illustrated in the Instruction’s enclosures involves the nozzles themselves:

Compressed air product manufacturers use this method to make OSHA compliant Nozzles.

One design that complies with OSHA 1910.242(b) using this method is the cross drilled nozzle:

Unless it’s blocked off, practically all of the air flow goes straight out the end, but if you block off the end, it all goes out the cross drilled hole. As long that hole is properly sized, you won’t build up 30 psi at the main outlet.

If you’re not concerned about high operating cost or deafening noise, you can stop reading now; these are all you need for OSHA compliance with Standard 1910.242(b). If you DO care about spending less money on compressed air or complying with OSHA Standard 1910.95(a) (which you read all about here), let’s spend a minute on engineered compressed air nozzles:

EXAIR Super Air Nozzles discharge compressed air through an annular array of holes, recessed between a series of fins. This causes the primary (compressed air) stream to entrain an enormous amount of air from the surrounding environment.

In addition to making them cost less to operate (since most of the total developed air flow is entrained), they’re also VERY quiet (since the entrained air forms a boundary layer on the outside of the air stream), AND they can’t be dead ended:

Since the fins won’t allow for a complete blockage of the compressed air discharging from the Super Air Nozzle, this design is a prime example of a built-in “relief device” as defined by Instruction STD 01-13-001, above.

All EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, in fact, incorporate a form of built-in “relief device”:

The overhang of the cap on the Flat Super Air Nozzles and the Super Air Knives prevent them from being dead ended.

If you’d like to discuss safe use of compressed air, it’s one of our primary goals here at EXAIR – give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR LLC
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EXAIR Corporation Puts The “Safety” In Safety Air Guns

One of the most dangerous things you can do is depressurize a line full of a pressurized gas. If the charge pressure is high enough, it’s going to come roaring out, with tremendous force and velocity. Anything in its path is subject to that force & velocity. Objects small enough to become entrained in its flow can become hazardous projectiles. The noise it creates can be literally deafening. If the point of discharge is accidentally jammed against your body, the pressure can get through your skin. As if that wasn’t scary enough, the gas then has a free path inside your body…they call that an embolism, and it can kill you.

Why on earth would anyone want to do that on purpose? Well, it happens every day, in factories, businesses, and homes all over the world, when people operate compressed air operated blow off devices. Of course, there are numerous factors that can drastically reduce the risk of injury associated with compressed air blow off devices.

One of these is mandated by the government. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the outlet pressure of any compressed air device used in industry for cleaning purposes. Keeping the outlet pressure low mitigates the risk of puncturing the skin. There are various methods of compliance with this regulation:

  • Regulate the supply pressure to less than 30psig. This absolutely complies, but it severely hampers your ability to get much done, as the air flow will be too weak to blow off anything but lightweight debris, from a smooth, dry surface, with the device pretty much right up on top of it.
  • Use a device that provides a relief path for the air flow if it was to become blocked or obstructed. EXAIR engineered Air Nozzles are designed to do this…you can supply them with higher pressures but they provide a relief path for the air, meaning they can’t be blocked or dead-ended.
Regardless of the compressed air supply pressure, the design of EXAIR Super Air Nozzles prevents a dangerous pressure from developing at the outlet.

The same regulation – OSHA 1910.242(b) – also addresses the airborne projectile problem by mandating the use of appropriate chip guarding. There are a number of ways to do this as well…chief among these is personnel protective equipment (PPE). At a minimum, you absolutely, positively should be wearing safety glasses with side shields whenever you have a blow off device in your hand (and so should anyone working near you, for that matter). If an operator is blowing off small, sharp shards, an OSHA inspector is probably going to get grumpy if they’re not wearing a full face shield, long sleeves, and maybe even a durable apron. Alternately, the blow off device could also be fitted with guarding as well…something like the Chip Shields that are available for most EXAIR Safety Air Guns. These polycarbonate dish-shaped shields fit on a rigid extension between the Safety Air Gun and the Super Air Nozzle, and can be positioned at an optimal distance to keep solid debris and liquid being blown off away from the operator.

Chip Shields are available for most EXAIR Safety Air Guns (left to right): VariBlast Precision & Compact, Soft Grip, and Heavy Duty Safety Air Guns…
…and others. These are just a few examples of blow off devices that can be successfully fitted with an EXAIR Chip Shield.

Another OSHA Standard – 1910.95(a) is there to protect operators against that literally deafening roar associated with unregulated discharge of compressed air. While cross-drilled nozzles (most easily seen in the lower left hand image above) provide a relief path to keep the outlet pressure at a safe level if they’re dead-ended, they’re still for all intents & purposes, an open-ended blow off…and quite loud. EXAIR Super Air Nozzles reduce the sound level of their air flow by design…the entrained air (which makes them so efficient) also forms a lower velocity barrier layer in the flow, which makes them extraordinarily quiet. In fact, all EXAIR Super Air Nozzles except our largest High Force models comply with OSHA limits for 8 hour noise exposure limits. Most callers that we talk to about applications for those are in areas where hearing protection is mandated anyway…if you need more than 4 pounds of blowing force, you’re probably wearing ear plugs already.

If you use compressed air for cleaning, drying, blow off, etc., you really need to do it safely, and in compliance with published & established safety standards. OSHA WILL fine you otherwise, and, even worse, someone could get hurt. EXAIR Corporation is devoted to helping you get the most out of your compressed air usage, and safe use is key to that. If you have any questions about it, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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6 Important Factors when Choosing a Safety Air Gun

If you look at operating costs alone, compressed air can be just about the most inefficient method there is for cleaning parts. If you just look at the risks, it’s potentially very dangerous too. Don’t even get me started on the insufferable noise it can make.

For cleaning parts, most folks are familiar with the use of an air gun. You can find the simplest of these in many industrial settings: a valve (often in the form of a handheld trigger device) fitted with a nozzle of some sort (often in the form of an open ended tube, pipe, or fitting to focus or direct the air flow). These have all three of the “downsides” I opened this blog with. Of course, these concerns can be mitigated to a high degree by using the right tool for the job. That’s where engineered products like EXAIR Safety Air Guns come in. Let’s look at how we can address these three “downsides”:

Efficiency: This is all about compressed air consumption. In the simplest of air guns mentioned above, consumption is only limited by the passages in the valve (or trigger) and the discharge fitting…and those limits are usually negligible. Modifying the ends (see examples below) to focus the air flow usually has minimal effect, because you’re not appreciably changing the total cross sectional area of the discharge opening:

Here are a few modified thumb trigger air guns that were sent in for Efficiency Lab testing. Left to right, compressed air consumption at 80psig supply pressure was 34.2 SCFM, 30.9 SCFM, and 28.2 SCFM. For comparison (more on this later,) EXAIR Model 1210 Soft Grip Safety Air Gun uses only 14 SCFM and generates a very similar flow pattern.

Safety: Remember learning about kinetic and potential energy in grade school? Well, when you compress air to 100psig, fitting all that air into a much smaller space creates a TREMENDOUS amount of potential energy:

The block on the left represents a cubic foot of air at atmospheric pressure. The one on the right represents how much space the first one takes up when compressed to 100psig. The energy imparted by this process HAS to be handled with care.

One problem with the thumb guns above is, if you were to jam into the palm of your hand and pull the trigger, a large component of that potential energy (pressure) turns into kinetic energy (force)…more than enough to break the skin and cause a potentially fatal condition known as an air embolism. In the United States, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulates compressed air devices used for cleaning purposes. All EXAIR Safety Air Guns comply with Standard 1910.242(b) by providing a relief path to ensure that it cannot be dead ended, and thus never create over 30psi measurable at the outlet)

EXAIR Super Air Nozzles cannot be dead ended, ensuring the outlet pressure won’t reach OSHA limits, regardless of supply pressure.

Noise: Another problem is, another component is turned into sound pressure…discharging air from a direct opening is quite loud. OSHA standards address these with limitations on outlet pressure and sound level. All EXAIR Safety Air Guns comply with Standard 1910.242(b), which limits the outlet pressure (by providing a relief path to ensure that it cannot be dead ended, and thus never create over 30psi measurable at the outlet) and all but our largest Super Blast Safety Air Guns comply with Standard 1910.95(a) limits for continuous 8 hour sound level exposure.

Which brings us to the topic of this blog: How exactly did THEY (our customer who used to use the thumb guns above) select the right Safety Air Gun, and how can we apply that to getting the right Safety Air Gun for YOU?

These steps aren’t all-inclusive, and they don’t necessarily need to be followed in order, but if you call an EXAIR Application Engineer about selecting a Safety Air Gun, here’s what we’re gonna talk about:

Ergonomics: We offer five distinctive styles of Safety Air Guns:

From small part cleaning by hand, to wide area blowoff, and all points in between, EXAIR has a Safety Air Gun for most any application.

Our thumb gun user (as I alluded to above) chose the Model 1210 Soft Grip Safety Air Guns (top right). They had a number of typical industrial applications where the operators had the parts or surfaces to be blown off right in front of them. They liked the integral storage hook and rubberized hand grip, but the VariBlast Compact (top middle) or Heavy Duty Safety Air Guns (bottom left) were also considered. The VariBlast Precision (top left) and Super Blast Safety Air Guns (bottom right) were too focused or more powerful, respectively, than needed.

Airflow pattern: Honestly, I could make a good case for this being the first consideration. Selection of any blowoff product – be it an Air Nozzle, Air Amplifier, Air Knife, Air Wipe, etc., will largely depend on the size and shape of the airflow.

variety of airflow patterns…and effective distances…are available from EXAIR’s comprehensive line of Super Air Nozzle products.

Application specific concerns: Everything we’ve discussed so far has involved aiming the blow off stream away from the operator, in the direction the device is aimed. In addition to wide variety of engineered Air Nozzles, EXAIR offers a number of options for these products:

Atto Back Blow Nozzles can blow out recesses or holes as small as 1/4″ in diameter.
Scrape off, and blow away, stubborn debris with the Model 1244-48 Soft Grip Super Air Scraper.

If you’re looking for a portable, hand-held compressed air blow off product that’s quiet, safe, and efficient, look no further than EXAIR Corporation’s extensive line of Safety Air Guns. If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Efficiency Lab Leads To Big Savings

EXAIR Corporation manufactures quiet, safe, and efficient compressed air products for industry. We want our customers to get the most out of our products, and, in turn, their compressed air systems. To do that, we offer a unique service called the EXAIR Efficiency Lab. Here’s how it works:

  • An Application Engineer can arrange to have your existing compressed air device(s) sent in to our facility.
  • We’ll use our calibrated test equipment to measure the compressed air consumption, sound level, and force applied of those devices.
  • You’ll receive a detailed test report, along with our recommendations to implement an efficient, quiet, and safety compliant solution.
  • We’ll even send your tested device(s) back to you, at no charge, if you wish.

I recently had the pleasure of conducting just such a test on some air guns.  The caller was the Environmental Health & Safety Director for a plastics manufacturer.  The main concern was safety compliance…a recent audit had shown that some workstations were using handheld blowoff devices that did not comply with OSHA standard 1910.242(b), which limits dead end pressure of compressed air products used for cleaning to 30psi.

After discussing their typical uses for these (and other) air guns, they sent in a couple for testing.  Here’s what we found out:

“Thumb guns” are especially popular for blowoff because of their compact size, ergonomic design. and low price.

The air gun with the 7″ straight extension (top) is a “textbook” example of non-compliance with OSHA standard 1910.242(b).  Because it has an open-end discharge with no relief path, this one could cause an air embolism if it were inadvertently dead-ended into the operator’s skin – a potentially fatal condition.  It also uses a considerable amount of compressed air, and is quite loud.  At 80psig supply pressure:

  • Compressed air consumption is 40.7 SCFM
  • Noise level is 95.5dBA
  • Force applied, at a distance of 12″, is 13oz

For comparison’s sake, EXAIR Model 1210-6 Soft Grip Safety Air Gun is fitted with our Super Air Nozzle, on the end of a 6″ rigid extension:

  • Compressed air consumption is 14 SCFM
  • Sound level is 74dBA
  • Force applied, at a distance of 12″, is 13oz…same as theirs.
Model 1210 Soft Grip Safety Air is fitted with an EXAIR Super Air Nozzle. We can also supply it with a Rigid Extension and Chip Shield (right).

The other one is OSHA compliant (it can’t be dead-ended…the cross-drilled hole provides a relief path, but it was still pretty inefficient and loud.  At our standard test pressure of 80psig:

  • Compressed air consumption is 30.8 SCFM
  • Noise level is 94.8dBA
  • Force applied, at a distance of 12″, is 16.9oz

Although the force generated by the Model 1210 Soft Grip Safety Air Gun isn’t quite as high as theirs, it’s still our recommendation here.  Oftentimes, the flow and velocity generated by the engineered Super Air Nozzle is more than capable of meeting the needs of the typical blow off applications these types of air guns are used in.

EXAIR Efficiency Lab testing proves that replacing these air guns with our Soft Grip Safety Air Guns (or at least replacing the tips with EXAIR Super Air Nozzles…we also have adapters for that) will result in compressed air savings of 66% and 55%, respectively, and lower sound levels to within OSHA standard 1910.95(a) limits:

All EXAIR Soft Grip Safety Air Guns comply with these limits for 8 hour exposure.

If you’d like to know more about the efficiency & safety (or lack thereof) of your current air blow off devices, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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