Is It Safe To Use Compressed Air?

Think about it…compressed air is, by definition, gas under pressure: potential (stored) energy.  This energy is intended to do work, like operation of pneumatic tools, actuation of pneumatic cylinders, debris removal with an air gun or blow off device, and (even though I haven’t done it in a while) my personal favorite:

High pressure compressed air is meticulously made, prepared, and stored to ensure the number of surfaces equals the number of dives.

Uncontrolled, unplanned, or accidental releases of stored energy (regardless of the source) are inherently dangerous, and great care must be taken to guard against such incidents.  This is accomplished, primarily, in three areas:

*Operation.  This might be the most prevalent, because it involves the greatest number of personnel (e.g., everyone) as well as the ways compressed air is used (e.g., all of them.)  It’s also the area where the most involved people (the operators) have the most control:

  • Personal protection.  Don’t even think about operating a compressed air device without eye protection.  Ever.  Hard stop.  Also, if the operation involves flying debris, a full face shield, long sleeves, gloves, etc. might be called for.  Hearing protection may be required as well…keep in mind, even if an engineered device (like any of EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products) generates a relatively low sound level, the impingement noise of the air flow hitting the object can reach dangerous levels.
  •  Personnel cleaning is prohibited.  The risk of injury to the eyes, respiratory system, and other parts is just too great to rely on personal protective equipment that’s designed for use while discharging compressed air AWAY from the body.  While this is expressly prohibited in certain situations, OSHA has long recognized it as good practice for all industries.
  • No horseplay.  ’nuff said.  Plenty of better ways to have fun at work.

*Design.  This one usually has the advantage of being traceable to a small number of people, and is also the one that’s most likely to be documented.  This is where it starts…if the system is designed to fail, it doesn’t matter how much care the operators take:

  • Supply lines, fittings, and hoses must be rated for use with compressed air, up to and exceeding the maximum discharge pressure of the air compressor.
  • This goes for any tools, blow off devices, components, etc., serviced by the air system.  The only thing worse than a component failing is a component failing in your hand.
  • Shut off valves should be located as close as practical to point(s) of operation.  This allows you to quickly secure the flow of compressed air to a failed component, hose, etc., and prevent further damage or risk of injury.
  • Hoses shouldn’t be run across the floor, where they can become a trip hazard or subject to damage from stepping on them.   This is a surefire way to find out the value of shut off valves (see above.)

*Product specification.  Or, more simply put, using the right tool for the job.  A broader discussion could include efficiency and performance, but we’ll stay within the confines of safety for the purposes of this blog:

  • Be mindful of dead end pressure.  Blow off devices, especially hand held ones like air guns, are oftentimes fitted with a simple open-end discharge.  If this is pushed into a part of the body, the pressurized air can break the skin and cause an air embolism.  This is a serious injury, and can be fatal if it reaches the heart, lungs, or brain.
    • This is a key consideration to OSHA Standard 1910.242(b), which limits the downstream pressure when compressed air is used for cleaning to 30psi.
    • EXAIR products are compliant with this Standard by design…there’s always a relief path for the air pressure; they can’t be dead ended.
Because the compressed air exits through a series of holes, recessed between a ring of fins, any attempt to block the air flow will simply send it in another direction.
  • Harmful sound levels are a consideration as well.  As stated above, hearing protection is required in many cases, but sound levels can be mitigated through the use of engineered products.  EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, as a result of their high entrainment, generate a boundary layer of air flow that leads to dramatically lower sound levels than a similar-sized open end blow off device.

If you’d like to explore ways to make your compressed air system safer, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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EXAIR Products: Silencing Mufflers Overview

OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.95(a), relating to permissible noise exposure levels, states that when employees are subjected to sounds in excess of 90 dBA, some type of control should be used to reduce the sound level. In an industrial setting, it’s very common to find the exhausting air from air operated devices such as actuators, diaphragm pumps or cylinders for example, to produce sound levels well above the allowable limits set forth in the Standard. EXAIR offers a variety of different Silencing Mufflers that help to reduce this  noise level, while also increasing operator safety.

 

Reclassifying Mufflers are available in 1/8″, 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″ NPT sizes

EXAIR’s Reclassifying Mufflers offer noise reduction up to 35 dB and are available in sizes ranging from 1/8″ to 1″ NPT. These types of mufflers are often considered”dual-purpose” as they not only reduce the noise level but also remove oil from the exhaust airflow by incorporating a removable filter element.  The exhausting oil mist is reduced from 50 PPM (parts per million) to only 0.015 PPM, when the device is operated at 100 PSIG. In addition, there is a bowl on the bottom to capture any residual oil and a 1/4″ tube adaptor to allow for easy draining.

Sintered Bronze Mufflers are available in #10-32, 1/8″, 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″, 3/4″, 1″, 1-1/4″ and 1-1/2″ NPT sizes, as well as 1/2-20 UNF female for use with solenoid valves
Straight Through Mufflers are available in 1/4″, 3/8″ and 3/4″ MNPT x FNPT

Sintered Bronze Mufflers are a relatively low cost option, commonly used with air cylinders as they can be installed quick and easy. We offer 1o different sizes, ranging from #10-32 for small installations, up to 1-1/2″ NPT for larger scale applications. The noise reduction depends on the size of the muffler and back pressure, which can occur from dirt or particulate clogging the muffler, restricting the exhausting airflow from passing through the porous sintered bronze.

Our Straight Through Mufflers are made of corrosion resistant aluminum and are lined with a sound absorbing foam, capable of reducing noise levels up to 20 dB. We offer 3 different sizes, 1/4″, 3/8″ and 3/4″ NPT, with a male thread on one end and female thread on the other. We incorporate this muffler design into our Cold Guns and Adjustable Spot Coolers and they are commonly used with our Vortex Tubes, Cabinet Cooler® Systems and E-Vac® Vacuum Generators as well.

Heavy Duty Mufflers are available in 1/4″ and 3/8″ FNPT

Lastly, the Heavy Duty Mufflers feature an internal, 50 mesh stainless steel screen, to protect against contaminants in the airflow,  and a corrosion resistant aluminum outer shell. In most cases, the sound reduction can be as high as 14 dB and we offer 2 different sizes, 1/4″ and 3/8″ FNPT. These types of mufflers are regularly used on the hot air exhaust of our Vortex Tubes.

For help with product selection or to discuss a particular process, please contact one of our application engineers at 800-903-9247.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

Improving Auger Cleaning Process Using 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzles And Swivels

I recently worked with a customer who was looking to improve the cleaning process on the  inside of one of their screw augers. They were currently using a couple of 1/4″ pipes as air wands to clean the left over powder on the auger blades and direct it toward a chute at the bottom which fed into another auger used for recovery. While the setup worked somewhat, they were concerned with the amount of air they were using as well as the OSHA safety concerns associated to using open ended pipes and excessive noise levels.

The customer was able to send a sketch of their current setup and after some further conversations, I recommended our Model # 1122 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle and our Model # 9053 1/4″ NPT Swivel Fitting. The 2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle produces a 2″ wide, high velocity laminar airflow and uses only 21.8 SCFM (80 PSIG) while maintaining a low sound level of only 77 dBA. The Swivel Fitting allows for 50 degrees of movement, so they can achieve the best angle to direct the air to the critical areas.

2″ Flat Super Air Nozzle
Swivel Fittings available from M4 up to 1″ NPT

All of our Air Nozzles are engineered to meet or exceed OSHA Standard 1910.24(b) for 30 PSIG dead end pressure, they cannot be dead-ended, there is always a path for the air to safely exit so the outlet pressure will never reach 30 PSIG. In addition, our products are going to meet the OSHA Standard CFR 29 – 1910.95(a) for allowable noise exposure levels as well.

If you are looking to reduce air consumption and noise while improving operator safety, give us a call at 800-903-9247 for assistance.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

Digital Sound Level Meter Identifies Harmful Noise in the Workplace

slm-newlabel EXAIR offers the model 9104 Digital Sound Level Meter.  It is an easy to use instrument for measuring and monitoring the sound level pressures in and around equipment and other manufacturing processes.

Sound meters convert the movement of a thin membrane due to the pressure waves of sound into an electric signal that is processed and turned into a readable output, typically in dBA.  The dBA scale is the weighted scale that most closely matches the human ear in terms of the sounds and frequencies that can be detected.

 

To protect workers in the workplace from suffering hearing loss OSHA has set limits to the time of exposure based on the sound level.  The information in the OSHA Standard 29 CFR – 1910.95(a) is summarized below.

OSHA Noise Level

The Digital Sound Meter can be used to monitor and measure sound levels of manufacturing processed such as blowoffs for cooling or drying.  Many blowoffs, especially open or drilled pipes are very inefficient and can be identified as a source of excessive noise, outside the OSHA exposure ranges.  Once the noise violators are identified, a review can be done and the implementation of engineered solutions such as Super air Nozzles or Super Air Knives can be investigated. Keeping harmful noise levels in check benefits everyone involved.

The EXAIR Digital Sound Level Meter is an accurate and responsive instrument that measures the decibel level of the sound and displays the result on the large optionally back-lit LCD display. There is an “F/S” option to provide measurement in either ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ modes for stable or quickly varying noises. The ‘Max Hold’ function will capture and hold the maximum sound level, and update if a louder sound occurs.

Certification of accuracy and calibration traceable to NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is included.

There is an informative Video Blog, presented by @EXAIR_LE that can be found here.

If you have questions about the Digital Sound Level Meter, or would like to talk about any of the quiet EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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