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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