OSHA Safety Standards for Compressed Air

Safety should always be a serious concern within industrial environments.  Walk through any production facility and you should see all kinds of steps taken to give a safe workplace to the operators, contractors, and other team members.  Whether this is through a sign showing PPE required to enter an area, an emergency exit sign, a safe walkway, or machine guards.  Safety has become a standard that should never be lowered and there is good reason for that.

EXAIR designs all of our products to be safe and they meet or exceed OSHA standards that are directed toward compressed air safety.  The first is to ensure that an operator or maintenance worker will not be injured through air impinging their skin should they come into contact with an EXAIR product.   This OSHA standard is 29 CFR1910.242(b) claiming that all point of use compressed air products must be regulated to have less than 30 psig of dead end pressure.   This directive is critical for worker safety and the way many blowoffs skirt by is to cross drill holes in the end of the blowoff.

Cross drilled holes may satisfy the dead end pressure standard but it does not address OSHA’s next important compressed air standard about noise exposure, OSHA standard 29CFR1910.95(a).  The allowable noise level standard combined with 30 psig dead end pressure will render many home made or retail nozzles near useless because few, if any, meet both standards.  Again, EXAIR has engineered and designed our Super Air Nozzles to permit 80 psig inlet pressure and still meet or exceed both of these OSHA standards so that the work can still be done by the operators while remaining safe and retaining their hearing.

For a better explanation and demonstration of how our nozzles meet these standards please see the video below.

While I use nozzles and cross drilled pipes as examples within this blog these safety features are designed into every product that EXAIR offers.  This is due to the fact that OSHA, NIOSH, and the CDC do not delineate between a blow gun, blow off within a machine, or even a Cabinet Cooler System.  If the device is powered by compressed air then the two key OSHA standard are in effect due to the inherit dangers of compressed air.

I encourage you now to walk through your facility and try to listen or spot compressed air points of use within your facility.  Then, I ask you to call, chat, e-mail, or tweet an Application Engineer here at EXAIR and let us help you determine the most efficient and safest product to get the work done.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

VariBlast®Compact Safety Air Gun

EXAR’s VariBlast® Compact Safety Air Guns are small and lightweight air guns capable of handling the toughest of jobs. With its variable flow trigger being its greatest design feature, it can take on small jobs and even big ones! This means you can get different flow and force out of the same nozzle by just adjusting the amount you pull the trigger.

The VariBlast Safety Air Gun, when outfitted with an EXAIR nozzle is OSHA safe and CE compliant. 

VariBlast Safety Air Gun With Extension and Chip Shield

The VariBlast can also be customized by adding one of our many 1/8 NPT engineered air nozzles, a chip shield and even an extension pipe up to 72″ long.

 

Flat Air Nozzle, with Chip shield and extension
Back Blow Nozzle, with 6″ extension and Chip Shield

 

 

The VariBlast is easy to rebuild, every wear item is available in the 902001 rebuild kit. These parts can be used to rebuild any VariBlast Compact Safety Air Gun that, through use, has become worn. See this video to see how easy it is to rebuild this gun, and make it feel brand new!

If you have questions about the VariBlast or to discuss any of the 15 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and one of our Application Engineers can help you.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Business Benefits From Compressed Air Efficiency

Use of compressed air, or “the fourth utility” as it’s called, is widespread in many industries.  How you use it in your business is important, for a couple of key considerations:

Monetary cost

Compressed air isn’t free.  Heck, it isn’t even cheap.  According to a Tip Sheet on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, some companies estimate the cost of generation at $0.18 – $0.30 per 1,000 cubic feet of air.  A typical industrial air compressor will make 4-5 Standard Cubic Feet per Minute per horsepower.  Let’s be generous and assume that our 100HP compressor puts out 500 SCFM and is fully loaded 85% of the time over two shifts per day, five days a week:

500 SCFM X $0.18/1,000 SCF X 60 min/hr X 16 hr/day X 5 days/week X 52 weeks/year =

$22,464.00 estimated annual compressed air cost

If you want to go jot down some numbers from your compressor’s nameplate and your last electric bill, you can accurately calculate your actual cost.  Here’s the formula:

Taking our same 100HP compressor (105 bhp required,) fully loaded 85% of the time, and assuming the motor’s good (95% efficient):

(105 bhp X 0.746 X 4,160 hours X $0.08/kWh X 0.85 X 1.0)÷ 0.95 =

$23,324.20 actual annual compressed air cost

So, our estimate was within 4% of our actual…but the point is, $22,000 to $23,000 is a significant amount of money, which deserves to be spent as wisely as possible, and that means using your compressed air efficiently.  Engineered solutions like EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products can be a major part of this – look through our Case Studies; implementing our products have saved companies as much as 60% on their compressed air costs.

Health & Safety

Injuries and illnesses can be big expenses for business as well. Inefficient use of compressed air can be downright unsafe.  Open ended blow offs present serious hazards, if dead-ended…the pressurized (energized) flow can break the skin and cause a deadly air embolism.  Even some air nozzles that can’t be dead ended (see examples of cross-drilled nozzles on right) cause a different safety hazard, hearing loss due to noise exposure.  This is another case where EXAIR can help.  Not only are our Intelligent Compressed Air Products fully OSHA compliant in regard to dead end pressure, their efficient design also makes them much quieter than other devices.

Efficient use of compressed air can make a big difference in the workplace – not only to your financial bottom line, but to everyone’s safety, health, and livelihood.  If you’d like to find out more about how EXAIR can help, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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EXAIR Standard Air Knife Keeps Bottles Free From Contaminants

Recently I worked with a customer on an application to remove contaminants from the inside of glass bottles. During production, dust from the ambient environment was collecting inside of the bottles. They needed a way to remove it prior to filling. The solution was to briefly pause the conveyor, pulsing air into the bottles to free any dust that had accumulated. Their problem was that while the dust was blowing out of the bottle without an issue, some of it was settling back down into the bottles.

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The customer needed a way to mitigate the risk of dust particles resettling into the bottles after it was removed. The solution was to install a Model 2012 12” Standard Air Knife to provide a curtain of air across the top of the bottles, catching any freed dust particles and blowing them away from the conveyor.

After noticing positive results, we wanted to take things one step further and help to reduce overall air consumption in the process. The blowoff was achieved with (8) ¼” open tubes operating at a pressure of 80 PSIG. Although they were only operating for a fraction of a second, they still consume a whopping 33 SCFM! Replacing them with Model 1101 ¼” NPT Super Air Nozzles (14 SCFM at 80 PSIG) resulted in compressed air savings of 58%!!

In addition to saving compressed air, the noise level was also dramatically reduced. At just 74 dBA, we’re below the threshold for an 8-hour exposure time for operators according to OSHA. Where earplugs were necessary before, they’re now able to operate safely without the need for PPE to protect their hearing. The second most effective fundamental method of protecting workers, according to NIOSH, is to substitute or replace the hazard with an engineered solution. It’s not possible to eliminate the hazard as a compressed air blowoff was necessary, but the next best step is to replace it with something safer.

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In addition to complying with OSHA 1910.95(a), the Super Air Nozzle also cannot be dead-ended. In applications for compressed air blowoff with unsafe nozzles, pipes, or tubes, the pressure must be regulated down to below 30 PSIG according to OSHA 1910.242(b). The installation of an engineered compressed air nozzle by EXAIR allows you to operate safely at much higher pressures.

If you have inefficient blowoff processes in your facility, give one of our Application Engineers a call. We’ll be happy to take a closer look at your application and recommend a safe, reliable, engineered solution!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@EXAIR.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Engineered Super Air Nozzles Improve Efficiency and Safety vs. Commercial and Homemade Nozzles

They may be inefficient, but they sure are loud…

Over the years, EXAIR has come across a variety of different types of blow-off devices.  We have seen copper tubes, pipes with a crushed end, fittings with holes drilled into them, and modular flex lines.  For compressed air use, these are very dangerous and very inefficient.  In many instances, companies will go through a mixed bag of items to make a blow-off device for their application.  It is inexpensive to do.  But what they do not realized is that these items are very unsafe and will waste your compressed air, costing you much money in the long run.

When EXAIR started to manufacture compressed air products in 1983, we created a culture in making high quality products that are safe, effective, and efficient.  Since we stand by our products, we created a program called the Efficiency Lab.  We test blow-off devices against EXAIR products in noise levels, flow usage, and force measurements.  With calibrated test equipment, we compare the data in a detailed report for the customer to review.  If we are less effective, we will state that in the report, but this is very rare.  With this quantified information, we can then determine the total amount of air savings and safety improvements that EXAIR products can offer.

With our Efficiency Lab, it is quite simple to do.  For starters, you can go to our Product Efficiency Survey on our website to give the conditions for testing.  If you wish for a side by side analysis, you can place your pneumatic device in a box and send it to EXAIR.  We will run the tests at the specified conditions or in a range of settings.  We will then return your pneumatic device back to you with a report of the comparison.  This report can be used to show managers, executives, HSE, etc. on the improvements that EXAIR can provide in cost savings and safety.

In a recent Efficiency Lab, a customer sent us a water jet nozzle that he was using to blow off product passing on a conveyor (reference photo above).  The customer supplied us with the required information to test.  They had three water jet nozzles on a manifold that had ¼” NPT male connections.  The air pressure was set at 75 PSIG (5.2 bar), and the air pattern was round.  Their annual usage for this blow-off device was 7000 hours continuous, and their electric rate for their facility was $0.10/KWh.  The reason that they sent their nozzle to EXAIR was because the operation was very loud, and they believed that they were wasting compressed air.  They asked me for a recommendation and what the payback period might be with my selection.

Model 1101

I recommended the model 1101 Super Air Nozzle as our standard round pattern with a ¼” NPT male connection.  With our engineered design, the Super Air Nozzle can entrain the “free” ambient air into the air stream to generate a hard-hitting force; using less compressed air.  Also, with this suggestion, they will not have to redesign their blow-off station; just remove the water jet nozzles and replace them with the Super Air Nozzles.  We tested the water jet nozzle, and we found that it used 17.5 SCFM (496 SLPM) at 75 PSIG (5.2 bar).  The noise level was measured at 91.2 dBA for a single nozzle.  As a comparison, the model 1101 Super Air Nozzle will only use 13.3 SCFM (376 SLPM) of compressed air at 75 PSIG (5.2 bar); and, the noise level was reduced to 73 dBA for each nozzle.

The first thing that is important to me is safety.  High noise levels will cause hearing damage.  OSHA generated a standard 29CFR-1910.95a with a chart for Maximum Allowable Noise Exposure.  To calculate the noise level for three nozzles, I will reference a previous blog that I wrote: “Measuring and Adding Sounds”.  With three water jet nozzles, the total sound is 96 dBA.  From the OSHA table above, the usage without hearing protection is less than 4 hours a day.  With the Super Air Nozzles, the noise level will be 78 dBA for all three nozzles; well below the requirement for 8 hours of exposure.  It is difficult to put a monetary value on safety, but using PPE should never be the first step as a solution.

For the annual savings and the payback period, I will only look at the electrical cost.  (Since the Super Air Nozzle is using less compressed air, the maintenance and wear on your air compressor is reduced as well).

The air savings is calculated from the comparison; 17.5 SCFM – 13.3 SCFM = 4.2 SCFM per nozzle.  With three nozzles, the total compressed air savings will be 12.6 SCFM for the blow-off station.  An air compressor can produce 5.36 SCFM/KW of electricity at a cost of $0.10/KWh.  For an annual savings, we have the figures from the information above; 7000 hours/year * 12.6 SCFM * $0.10/KWh * 1KW/5.36 SCFM = $1,645.52/year.  For the payback period, the model 1101 Super Air Nozzle has a catalog price of $44.00 each, or $132.00 for three.  The customer above did not disclose the cost of the water jet nozzles, but even at a zero value, the payback period will be just under 1 month.  Wow!

Not all blow off devices are the same.  With the customer above, they were able to reduce their noise levels and compressed air consumption.  If your company decides to select an unconventional way to blow off parts without contacting EXAIR, there can be many hidden pitfalls; especially with safety.  Besides, if you can save your company thousands of dollars per year as well, why go with a non-standard nozzle?  If you have a blow off application and would like to compare it against an EXAIR product, you can discuss the details with an Application Engineer.  What do you have to lose?

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

EXAIR Digital Sound Level Meters Measure Noise Exposure Levels

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Digital Sound Meter

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.

Noise induced hearing loss can be a significant problem for many workers in manufacturing and mining. 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 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.

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.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Durable, Versatile, and Efficient – EXAIR Soft Grip Safety Air Gun

As compressed air technology advanced through the 20th Century, its uses multiplied.  Pneumatic cylinders became common for rolling and forming presses.  The convenience and portability of powerful pneumatic hand held tools spread in assembly and manufacturing facilities.  Along the way, operators also found that an open-ended compressed air line could be used for quick and easy blow off in a number of applications. There were, however, some pretty risky safety issues associated with this.

In December of 1970, the Occupational Safety & Health Act became the law of the land, and in 1971, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) was created.  Among the many hazards in workplaces they targeted was compressed air use for cleaning.  The primary concerns were:

  • An open ended blow off could inadvertently be dead ended onto a person’s body, and if the pressure were high enough, it could break the skin and cause a deadly condition called an air embolism.  So they limited the outlet pressure to 30psi.
  • Blowing something off with air can (and usually does) result in airborne particulate traveling at a high velocity that can imbed in your skin or in your eye.  So they mandated the use of proper chip guarding, protective clothing, and eye protection.

This is where the history of the safety air gun begins.  Through the 1970’s & 1980’s, engineers rolled out product after product conforming with these new safety standards, sometimes looking for economy, sometimes efficiency…and occasionally, both.

It’s not hard to make a blow off nozzle that complies with OSHA’s dead end pressure requirement; you just need to provide a path for the air to escape in case the nozzle end is blocked.  Cross drilled nozzles (shown at right) are simple, cheap, and OSHA compliant, but they’re also loud & inefficient.

EXAIR’s Super Air Nozzles not only protect against injury from dead ended high pressure air, their engineered design also makes them quiet, and efficient.  They are commonly installed on the Soft Grip Safety Air Gun.  Along with our Chip Shields (shown at right) and your personal protective equipment, you get OSHA compliance, AND lower air consumption & noise levels.

With the Soft Grip Safety Air Gun, you also get a diverse range of options to suit the specific needs of numerous applications:

If you’re looking for a hand held blow off device, your choices are many.  If you’re looking for a quiet, efficient, safe, and versatile one, your choice is easy:  the EXAIR Soft Grip Safety Air GunCall me and we’ll figure out which one you need.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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