Compressed Air Safety

At EXAIR, we have a statement, “Safety is everyone’s responsibility”.  And as a corporation, EXAIR builds our name around this by manufacturing safe and protective compressed air products.  In the United States, we have an organization called Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, that enforces governmental directives for safe and healthy working environments.  They do training, outreach programs, and educational assistance for manufacturing plants.  They can also enforce these directives with heavy fines for violations.  With compressed air, the two most common violations are air guns and blow-off devices are described in 29CFR 1910.242(b) for dead-end pressure/chip shielding and 29CFR 1910.95(a) for maximum allowable noise exposure.

Here is an example of a nozzle that is dangerous.  As you can see, there is only one opening where the air can pass through from the nozzle.  Other similar types of blow-off devices that would fall into this same group would include copper tube, extensions, and open pipes.

Unsafe Nozzle

They are dangerous as the compressed air cannot escape if it is blocked with your body or skin.  If operated above 30 PSIG (2 bar), these nozzles could penetrate the skin and create an air embolism within the body which can cause bodily harm or death.  This is a hazard which can be avoided by using EXAIR Super Air Nozzles and Safety Air Guns.  The nozzles are designed with fins which allows the air to escape and not be blocked by your skin.  So, you can use the EXAIR Super Air Nozzles safely even above 30 PSIG (2 bar).

Unsafe Air Gun

To counteract the dead-end pressure violation, some nozzle manufacturers create a hole through the side of the nozzle (Reference photo above).  This will allow for the compressed air to escape, but now the issue is noise level.  With an “open” hole in the nozzle, the compressed air is very turbulent and very loud.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, states that 70% to 80% of all hearing loss within a manufacturing plant is caused by compressed air.  OSHA created a chart to show the maximum allowable noise exposure.  This chart shows the time and noise limits before requiring hearing protection.  The EXAIR Super Air Nozzles, Super Air Knives, Super Air Amplifiers are designed to have laminar flow which is very quiet.  As an example, the model 1210 Safety Air Gun has a sound level of only 74 dBA; well under the noise exposure limit for 8 hours.

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.

NIOSH created an overview of how to handle hazards in the workplace.  They call it the Hierarchy of Controls 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 unsafe compressed air nozzles and guns, the proper way to reduce this hazard is to substitute it with an engineered solution.

One of the last things that companies think about when purchasing compressed air products is safety.  Loud noises and dead-end pressure can be missed or forgotten.  To stop any future fines or purchasing additional personal protective equipment (PPE), it will be less expensive to purchase an EXAIR product.  And with the Hazard Hierarchy of Controls, EXAIR products are that engineered solution.  If you would like to improve the safety in your facility with your current blow-off devices, an Application Engineer at EXAIR can help you.  Remember, safety is everyone’s responsibility. 

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Picture:  Safety First by Succo.  Pixabay License

Airguns, OSHA, And You

Depending on the context, those may be three words you DON’T want to hear in the same sentence. Case in point…a caller I spoke with recently, who works at a large steel forging plant. During a recent inspection, management was surprised (and disappointed) to find out that, unbeknownst to them, some of their operators had modified some of their compressed air blow off devices.

These modifications left them in violation of both OSHA Standard 1910.242(b) (limit on outlet, or dead end pressure) and 1910.95(a) (limits noise level exposure.)  The OSHA inspector left them with an $8,000.00 fine, and a promise to return with an even higher one if the situation wasn’t corrected.

We discussed the ways their current devices were supplied, the conditions they were operating in, what they were used for…and why the operators had modified them.  Sadly, we found the devices were underperforming due to air supply issues – hoses that were too small in diameter and/or too long, with restrictive quick connect fittings.  And some of their modifications (drilling out the discharge) just exacerbated those problems.

Most of their applications were pretty typical – blowing flash, chips, oil, coolant, etc. from processed metal parts.  Typical enough that a couple of EXAIR Safety Air Guns would allow them to determine what they would need, by taking them around to various stations in the plant and trying them out.

My caller ordered a Model 1210 Soft Grip Safety Air Gun with a Zinc Aluminum Super Air Nozzle (our most popular for typical blow off applications,) and a Model 1260 Soft Grip Safety Air Gun with a High Force 1/2 NPT Zinc Aluminum Super Air Nozzle (the most powerful one available on the Soft Grip Safety Air Gun.)

Here’s Model 1210-6-CS, fitted with a Zinc Aluminum Super Air Nozzle on a 6″ Rigid Extension & Chip Shield.  All EXAIR Safety Air Guns are compliant with OSHA Standard 1910.242(b).

I feel pretty good about the chances of publishing a future blog about the success of this application.  If you want to keep up, I encourage to follow the EXAIR blog – there’s a link to the right to provide your email address – for more on this one, other applications, and a wealth of expert writings on how to get the most out of your compressed air system.

As always, if you’d like to discuss a particular compressed air application and/or product selection, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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