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

Protect Personnel from Noise with Engineered Products

Sound can be defined as vibrations that typically travel as an audible wave through mediums that can be a gas, liquid or solid. For this blog we will concern ourselves with sound travelling through a gas (atmosphere) in an industrial setting.

Sound is energy that travels in waves and is measured by its frequency (cycles per second) and amplitude (intensity). A common unit of measurement for sound energy is the decibel. The decibel (abbreviated with dBA) is a unit-less number that is based on the logarithm of a known measured quantity to a reference quantity. Without reciting the equation for every increase of 3 dBA is a doubling of sound energy or twice as loud.

Since our focus is on industrial sound one might question why be concerned at all, after all sound emanates from most machines and devices. The reason for concern is that there are OSHA regulations regarding the amount of time workers can be exposed to different levels of sound in their workday as illustrated below. These limits are in place to protect personnel from Noise Induced Hearing Loss or NIHL. When the damage to anyones hearing is caused by their profession, it is also referred to as Occupational Hearing Loss or OHL.

After monitoring for noise, NIOSH and the CDC next recommend administrative controls to minimize or eliminate the noise hazard (click for their helpful PDF). This would include the use of noise reducing EXAIR products like Super Air Nozzles, Air Knives and Air Amplifiers.

dBA Chart.JPG
OSHA Maximum Allowable Noise Exposure

When considering the many items in an industrial setting that produce loud sounds the list would be exhaustive. Many of them simply produce loud sounds that can’t be eliminated or reduced while on the other hand there are some that can. Some of the noisiest offenders that plants have control over are air powered tools and open tube blow-offs.  Eliminating inefficient methods of part blow off & part cleaning with an engineered solution allows a company to significantly reduce the level of sound in their plant, improve worker safety and save money on compressed air consumption.

Employers are required to provide hearing protection to employees whom are exposed to sounds above 90 dBA on a Time Weighted Average (TWA). Without digressing into the formulas TWA calculates a workers daily exposure to occupational sounds by taking into account the average levels (in dBA) and the time exposed to different levels.  This is the how OSHA assesses workers exposure and what steps should be taken to protect the workers.

To conclude, plants need to be mindful of the OSHA regulations for sound levels, time of exposure and that hearing protectors wear out. Earmuff seals can lose their elasticity and reduce their effectiveness and the soft pre-molded earplugs can wear out in a day and need replaced.  Keep a good supply on hand and OSHA suggests letting workers with noisy hobbies take them home for protection off the clock!

If you would like to discuss reducing noise or any EXAIR product, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer

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Safe Trip

Just getting back in the swing of things after being on vacation last week. My family, along with my mother, went on a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise which included 3 days at sea and 3 days at different ports. Our port stops included the Bahamas, San Juan Puerto Rico and the island of St. Maarten. My wife and I have cruised several times and have already visited these islands, but with this cruise being our son’s and my mother’s first, we thought we would try to experience some different things.

Our last port was St. Maarten, where “we” (my wife and mother) planned our day of shopping and having an authentic lunch at a local restaurant. With the shopping portion of the day complete, we started asking locals for a good place to have lunch. We met a local who ran his own taxi company and recommended we have lunch at Maho Beach but it was going to be a 20 minute taxi ride. When we arrived, for some reason the area seemed somewhat familiar and then it hit me…. I’ve seen this place on TV! Their airport sits right on the edge of the island and arriving and departing planes basically fly right over your head while sitting at the restaurant/bar or swimming at the beach.

People line up along the road and fence line and wait for the next plane (the restaurant/bar has arrival and departure screens and will yell out when a large commercial jetliner is approaching), making it a very crowded area. Due to the potential jet blast coming from the engines there are safety signs posted that people ignore. I did ask one of the restaurant/bar managers if safety is such a concern, then why do they allow people to line up and he said “all they can do is warn people, if they want to subject themselves to injury, then that’s on them”. I don’t want to see anyone getting hurt, but I must admit, it is a little humorous to see people get blown all over the beach. Needless to say, we stood a good distance away.

St Maarten02_Maho Beach38Safety signmaho-beach-st-maarten

In all seriousness, safety should be a primary concern. Is your plant currently practicing safety when dealing with compressed air? Open pipes, tubes or drilled pipe can consume large amounts of compressed air, and exceed the pressure and noise level thresholds outlined by OSHA. And we are all aware that personnel don’t always abide by the safety rules – much like ignoring a safety sign.

At EXAIR, our customer’s safety is of utmost importance. All of our intelligent compressed air products meet or exceed the OSHA standard 1910.242(b) for safety.  This means that you can still operate the devices at 80 psig while not having to worry about an operator injuring themselves with the compressed air.  This is not just for one product line, but ALL of the compressed air products that we manufacture.

EXAIR products also meet or exceed the OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.95(a) for maximum allowable noise exposure levels.   The chart for allowable noise level exposure is below. Occupational hearing loss is a serious issue in manufacturing, in fact, it is the most commonly recorded illness is manufacturing. Engineering controls, like replacing open air lines with engineered air nozzles, are one of the top recommendations to solve the problem. Engineering controls can effectively eliminate the problem of people forgetting, refusing, or ignoring safety processes.

OSHA Noise Level

By implementing the EXAIR engineered solutions into your facility you can effectively lower the noise level cause by unsafe compressed air blow offs and possibly eliminate the need for hearing protection all together.   In my experience any time an operator doesn’t need to wear hearing protection or you can make their surrounding environment a little quieter, they tend to be a little happier which, always leads to better production. Again, many resources back this up, loud noise can also create physical and psychological stress.

These are just two of the standards that EXAIR will never take a vacation on.   Every product that EXAIR designs must be safe for operator operations, whether that be through pressure output or through the noise level it creates.

Contact one of our applications engineers to see how we may be able to improve similar safety concerns at your facility.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN