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

OSHA Says Keep Compressed Air Use Safe and Quiet: EXAIR Does Just That

The Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed by Richard Nixon in 1970. Under the United Sates Department of Labor, shortly thereafter; OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was born. OSHA is a large regulatory agency tasked to assure safe and healthy working environments by setting and enforcing standards as well as to provide training, outreach and assistance. Although some people’s first response is to cringe at the word OSHA, they have been instrumental in dramatically reducing injury rates and injury costs without negative effects on employees or companies.

Sure we can all cringe by looking up OSHA horror stories on YouTube. And many of us have a story about that one company that was fined 10’s of thousands of dollars for x, y, or z violations… But in reality, OSHA are not the bad guys. They are not looking for fines, in fact they generally give warnings and timelines to fix possible issues, prior to an incident. The fines typically are generated when companies fail to comply. Yes, I know there are always exceptions, but exceptions are not the rule. We hear and hold on to the radical stories, and the day to day, mundane stories fall to the wayside. Regardless of how we feel, we all must comply.

When it comes to EXAIR products, there are two OSHA standards that we must adhere to. One is related to “sound” and one is related to “dead end pressure”.

First let’s look at the dead end pressure. OSHA Safety requirement 29 CFR 1910.242 (b) discusses the possibilities for air embolisms when more than 30 psi is “dead ended” into your skin. EXAIR products have pathways for air to exhaust so that they cannot be “dead ended”. Each product has a way for the air to exhaust to avoid danger. Here are a couple of examples:

Air nozzles have multiple paths to exhaust pressure
Air Knives exhaust the entire path, as well as out each end

Take note that when being used properly (no horseplay) the airflow will have some path to escape and cannot be blocked. They are designed so that air will escape prior to any danger.

Next we will take a look at OSHA requirement 29 CFR-1910.95 (a). This regulation deals with occupational noise exposure. Measuring sound in decibels (dBA) the magic number is 90. Anything under 90 dBA has no limitations on how long you can be exposed to it. For a reference 60 dBA is about the sound level of a normal conversation, or an air conditioner. 70 dBA is about the noise of a washing machine, 80-85 is like city traffic. Then we start getting loud like a motorcycle around 95, shouting or barking is about 110, and standing near a siren is about 120dBA.

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.

As mentioned, 90 dBA or less is our target to avoid needing alternative solutions such as noise barriers or PPE. Nearly all EXAIR products are compliant at or under 90 dBA. The few exceptions are with some of our high force / extensive reach products such as our High Force Air Nozzles.

Please reach out at anytime if you have any questions, or want to discuss EXAIR and OSHA compliance, or any EXAIR questions at all.

Thank you for stopping by,

Brian Wages

Application Engineer

EXAIR Corporation
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Sound Levels in Your Facility

One of the most common and dangerous hazards that occur within a manufacturing and production facility is the noise level within the plant. Noise is measured in units known as decibels. Decibels are a ratio of the power level of the sound compared to a logarithmic scale. If an employee is an exposed for too long to high levels of noise, they can begin to lose their hearing. That is where the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95 regulation comes into play.

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.

This OSHA standard doesn’t just provide the protection against noise in the work place but monitoring as well. Companies shall provide at no cost audiometric tests for all employees to ensure that no damage is being to the hearing of all personnel. This program is to be repeated every six months and the results are to be made accessible to all personnel.                

Hearing is very important to our everyday lives and must be protected due to the fact that once it is damaged hearing loss cannot be lost be repaired. The OHSA 29 CFR 1910.95 is there to protect and monitor this dangerous hazard in the workplace so that all employees can go home safe and sound.

Here at EXAIR we design all of our products to safe and quite. Weather it is using one of our mufflers for vortex tubes or E-vac’s or one of our Super air nozzles we strive to meet and exceed the OSHA standard. One could also purchase EXAIR’s Digital Sound Level Meter which can give a accurate and responsive reading of how loud your compressed air sources are.

For more information on EXAIR’s Digital Sound Level Meter and any of EXAIR‘s Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer

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Find It, Tag It, Fix It: Addressing Parasitic Draw

Leeks, and not the compressed air kind!

Leaks, and not the kind you see on a cooking show, are never good. Before you comment, yes I know the vegetable is spelled leek, that’s just the strength of my dad jokes. The point of this post is actually discussing leaks, mainly of the compressed air variety. All leaks cost. I recently found a leak within my home which was accounting for around a 20% increase in my water bill. Sad to say that it took a few months to locate, and solve the issue. Over the years, I’ve seen many facilities deal with common leak problems like being unable to leave their compressed air pipes energized over night because the parasitic draw will drain the entire system. That’s a problem!

Burst pipes and leaks are ALWAYS costly!

If the leaks are present when nothing is being utilized, then that means parasitic draw is happening on the system. This is when energy that is being converted into compressed air isn’t used but instead, leaking out to atmospheric conditions. These parasitic draws are not always easy to locate, so over the years I’ve had to help a few customers address this problem. One in particular stands out, so I am going to share how we honed in on the leak and ultimately gave them days without a shutdown.

The conversation all started with a customer asking about how our Digital Flowmeters work, and if they could be used to determine which production line is using the most air, and more importantly why their production line shuts down for low air pressure. After I explained how we would select their infeed pipe size as well as size a meter that would fit each machine infeed, we got to talking about the shut down sequence.

The approach they took to solving the issue was to first capture the flowrate of the entire system and then to evaluate the flowrates of each segment of their plant. From there, we would install flowmeters on the higher usage sectors, and drill down to each machine for the finite analysis. They could then go through all the other production lines and generate a full facility consumption profile. To start, they found one packaging line that was using a considerably higher volume of air throughout their first shift than any other line and than any other shift.

Once they started breaking down the high demand production line they found one leg of the production line which had a spike in usage at the same time every day. The trick was they couldn’t find a machine with high usage, that is until they traced all of the piping and found a filter bag house on the roof that had been added to the line at some point. This wasn’t documented and had a piece of pipe that had failed causing an open dump during the cleaning cycle every day at 2:30 in the afternoon.

This was all made possible by setting up multiple flowmeters with wireless capabilities so they could document and compare the usages between machines and production lines ultimately giving them a considerable amount of production time back into the day by fixing a broken pipe that caused daily shutdowns.

If you would like to discuss how to layout a compressed air monitoring system in your facility or the best way to track down the cause of some leaks and high compressed air demand, contact an Application Engineer.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

1 – Leeks on shelf – Jeffery Martin, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons – retrieved from – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/user:Veronicasgardentracker