Compressed Air and Safety

Warning

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Hearing damage can occur from exposure to loud noises from compressed air exhausting from pneumatic equipment or devices.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. If the air pressure is higher than the recommended rating for the equipment, uncontrolled eruptions can occur which can send broken pieces everywhere.
  6. 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.

  1. Verify that all compressed air components are rated to be used for the maximum line pressure.
  2. Use shut-off valves nearby to isolate the system from the main compressed air line.
  3. Have general inspection on your compressed air system to check for pipe degradation, leaks, faulty pneumatics, etc.
  4. 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.
  5. Remember that compressed air is not a toy and use proper PPE when required.
  6. If any pneumatically operated product is damaged, remove it from service and either repair it or replace it.
EXAIR Products

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.

John Ball
Application Engineer

Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

 

Photo: Attention Warning Sign by Peter-LomasCreative Commons: CCO

 

 

Chip Shields Improve Safety

I have been around long enough to have been in the role of supervision when mandatory eye protection was instituted.  The first couple of years were particularly challenging getting employees to  wear their safety glasses. I was given every excuse imaginable as a reason to NOT wear the safety glasses. It wasn’t until we made them view a safety video that they became converts.

The video was a typical 1940’s style government production featuring a 1948 Chevy ambulance with a siren mounted on the front fender blaring away. Laughter filled the room until the scene in the operating room. The victim had a piece of aluminum shaving impaled in his eye. A magnet could not be used to extract the projectile so they had to slit the eyeball with a scalpel.  The room got absolutely dead silent and a couple of people fainted. Which proves a picture is worth a thousand words and any disciplinary action.

chip shield

Compressed air is commonly used to clean off parts and/or clear an area. The potential of a projectile  to ricochet back towards the operator is real. To provide added safety along with proper personal protection, EXAIR offers a chip shield option to our blow off guns. Chip Shields are made of a durable polycarbonate shield that protects operators from flying debris often associated with blowing chips off machined parts. Chip Shields are also great for keeping coolant from spreading everywhere during drying operations.

An EXAIR safety air gun can be ordered with a chip shield installed by simply adding a “-CS” to its part number.  Or, If you have a gun without a shield, they can be retrofitted. A rubber grommet is supplied to fit over your existing extension wand. For models that do not already have and aluminum extension in place, a short extension nipple and necessary adapter is provided.

Feel welcomed to contact us with any questions you may have.

Joe Panfalone
Application Engineer
Phone (513) 671-3322
Fax (513) 671-3363
Web: http://www.exair.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/exair_jp
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/exair

If It Doesn’t Seem Completely Safe, It Probably Isn’t

I like quips and quotes. I keep a few funny ones tucked away for special moments. I don’t golf a lot (or well), but when friends talk about it, I always feel the need to tell them that Mark Twain called the game “a fine walk, ruined.” Even though I rarely fly, and don’t drink, if the topic of an airplane trip arises, I’m quick to recall the words of my favorite author Lewis Grizzard, who said: “Given a choice, I will not fly. Given no choice, I will not fly sober.”

Recently, I stumbled across a list of safety-related quotes. With apologies to the various authors, I don’t see myself looking for opportunities to insert them into conversations with the same zeal that I use my Twain and Grizzard. A few of them, however, reminded me of the folly of one of my all-time overused quips, attributed to baseball player Lefty Gomez: “I’d rather be lucky than good.”

Hearing protection is a sound investment. ~Author Unknown

A few years ago, I took a routine hearing test as part of a job-related physical exam. I hear just fine, so it was nothing I’d thought about having done on purpose in years. The results were well within specifications, but the technician noted a slight dip among certain frequencies, and asked if I’d ever had long-term exposure to heavy machinery. Turns out, I did indeed spend a majority of my waking hours, for months at a time, in the engine room of a Trident submarine, during my six years as a sailor. Hearing protection was actually abundantly available, and honestly, I considered my use of it to be “frequent” if not “fastidious.” Again, my hearing’s fine, and I don’t lie awake at night worrying about going deaf, but, since that test, I do have a higher appreciation for my sense of hearing, and a greater sense of urgency to protect it. Ask around; you won’t find me in the Efficiency Lab without a set of foam ear plugs, correctly inserted.

To learn about eye protection, ask someone who has one. ~Author Unknown

I once suffered a scratched cornea. It wasn’t industrial accident; in fact, it happened at home, in my bedroom. It was early morning, and I’d hit the “snooze” button to capture just a few more blessed moments of pillow time. Just as I rolled back over, my wife adjusted one of those sacred pillows, and her fingernail found my eye socket. It’s especially curious that such a freak accident would happen to me, because I’ve always been very keen on eye protection.  I always keep my safety glasses handy, and I don’t sleep on that side of the bed anymore.

Of course, workplace safety encompasses way more than just sight & hearing protection, but this is a blog, not a book. So if your job, or current task that may just be a small part of your job, calls for it, wear the ear plugs, and/or the safety glasses, long sleeves, steel-toed boots, respirators, or whatever.  If your job/task(s) involves the use of compressed air, you can limit your noise exposure by using engineered products – for instance, EXAIR’s Super Air Knives (running at 80psig) generate only 69 dBA, versus drilled pipe blowoffs, flat air nozzles, or blower air knives, which can run over 100 dBA.  But even if you forego the earplugs around a Super Air Knife (OSHA says you can, but I still don’t), you’ll definitely need the safety glasses – when the air (and any particles entrained in it) is moving at up to 11,800 feet per minute, you just can’t blink that fast.

In closing, I leave you with the words of the venerable philosopher Red Green, who said, “We’re all in this together, and I’m pulling for you.”

Working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it. ~Author Unknown

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
Web: www.exair.com
Blog: https://blog.exair.com/
Twitter: twitter.com/exair_rb
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/exair