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

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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Sound Power Vs Sound Pressure

sound-level-comparison
EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product dBA ratings as compared to other sounds

When trying to explain or state a number associated with how loud a sound or noise is it can be somewhat confusing or at the very least, ambiguous.  This blog will help to make it clear and easy to understand the difference between Sound Power and Sound Pressure.

Sound Power is defined as the speed at which sound energy is radiated or transmitted for a given period of time.  The SI unit of sound power is the watt. It is the power of the sound force on a surface of the medium of propagation of the sound wave.

Sound Pressure is the sound we hear and is defined as the atmospheric pressure disturbance that can vary by the conditions that the sound waves encounter such as furnishings in a room or if outdoors trees, buildings, etc.  The unit of measurement for Sound Pressure is the decibel and its abbreviation is the dB.

I know, the difference is still clear as mud!  Lets consider a simple analogy using a light bulb.  A light bulb uses electricity to make light so the power required (stated in Watts) to light the bulb would be the “Sound Power” and the light generated or more specific the brightness is the “Sound Pressure”.  Sound just as with the light emitting from the bulb diminishes as the distance increases from the source.  Skipping the math to do this, it works out that the sound decreases by 6 dB as the distance from the sound source is doubled.  A decrease of 3dB is half as loud (Sound Pressure) as the original source.  As an example sound measured at 90 dB @ 36″ from the source would be 87dB at 54″ from the sound source or 84dB at 72″.

We at EXAIR specialize in making quiet and efficient point of use compressed air products, in fact most of our products either meet or exceed OSHA noise standards seen below.

OSHA Noise Level

EXAIR also 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.

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 or any Application Engineer.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer

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Proper Air Supply Line Size Equals Proper Performance

Pipe_460top
Properly sized piping will allow your compressed air operated equipment to operate efficiently!

On any given day myself and my Application Engineering Brethren here at EXAIR have discussions with customers on air starvation of any given EXAIR Product.  The calls generally start off the same, “The Line Vac is not performing like it should”.  We at EXAIR absolutely want to help you get the most out of our products and we certainly want them to perform to your expectation.  However they must be supplied with clean/dry compressed air at sufficient pressure and volume.

Just the other day I was discussing a performance issue with a customer on a 1″ Line Vac.  The customer thought he needed a larger Line Vac.  I asked the questions regarding the diameter of his Supply Line and if he was using Quick Connect or Push Lock connectors.  He was attempting to feed this Line Vac with 1/4″ Poly Tubing through a elbow Push to Loc fitting.

This 1″ Line Vac was being severely starved for air and therefore not performing as expected.  The 1″ Line Vac require’s 14.7 SCFM @ 80PSI to reach the rated performance of 42″ of water column.

Below is a table for Pipe/Hose sizing from the Line Vac installation manual that you can use as a reference guide.  It is recommended that if using hose for the supply air to go up to the next size over the pipe recommendation.

Chart2

Don’t forget that quick connects and Push Lock fittings are not recommended and could restrict the air flow which will have a negative impact on performance.

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

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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Compressed Air Uses In Industry

Air Compressor

There are so many uses for compressed air in industry that it would be difficult to list every one of them as the list would be exhaustive.  Some of the uses are the tools used in production lines, assembly & robotic cells, painting, chemical processing, hospitals, construction, woodworking and aerospace.

It is considered as important as water, electricity, petroleum based fuels and often referred to as the fourth utility in industry. The great advantage of compressed air is the high ratio of power to weight or power to volume. In comparison to an electric motor compressed air powered equipment is smoother.  Also compressed air powered equipment generally requires less maintenance, is more reliable and economical than electric motor powered tools.  In addition they are considered on the whole as safer than electric powered devices.

Even amusement parks have used compressed air in some capacity in the operation of thrill rides like roller coasters or to enhance the “wow factor” of certain attractions. Compressed air can be found in your dentist’s office where it is used to operate drills and other equipment. You will find compressed air in the tires on your car, motorcycle and bicycles. Essentially, if you think about it, compressed air is being used nearly everywhere.

Here at EXAIR, we manufacture Intelligent Compressed Air Products to help improve the efficiency in a wide variety of industrial operations. Whether you are looking to coat a surface with an atomized mist of liquid, conserve compressed air use and energy, cool an electrical enclosure, convey parts or bulk material from one location to another or clean a conveyor belt or web, chances are we have a product that will fit your specific need.

Atomizing nozzle
Atomizing Nozzles Can Apply Even Coatings
Super Air Amplifier
Air Amplifiers pull in a large volume of ambient air to increase air flow volume and are great for cooling applications!
Heavy Duty Threaded Line Vac
For conveying heavy or abrasive products the Heavy Duty Threaded Line Vacs have male NPT Threads to make permanent and rigid installation into a piping system a breeze.

If you would like to discuss quiet, efficient compressed air products, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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Standards, Compliance, And You. And EXAIR.

I’m pretty impressed with the number of safety features my car has. Aside from the literal lifesaving functions like seat belts and air bags, it’s got anti-lock brakes…if you’ve ever had to counter-steer out of a skid on an icy road, you will appreciate the value of this for sure.  Those are just some of the ones I’m keenly aware of – the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards comprise dozens of regulations in three categories: crash avoidance, crashworthiness, and post-crash survivability.  None of these prevent me from operating my vehicle at an unsafe rate of speed…an expensive reality that an Ohio State Highway Patrolman dutifully reminded me of last Sunday afternoon.

Likewise, there are many regulations to ensure safety and prevent hazards of all kinds in industry, administered by a host of agencies that are either subordinates of, or accountable to, the federal government.  When you manufacture products that are used with high energy sources (compressed air or high voltage electricity,) a strong commitment to safety is not negotiable.  So, at EXAIR, we commit considerable resources towards the best engineering and manufacturing practices to make our products as safe as possible.  That includes compliance with a number of standards and certifications:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor.  Their mission is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”  They are a regulatory body in the truest sense, in that they don’t offer certification or approval of products, processes, etc.; they publish guidelines and standards for manufacturers and users to comply with.  OSHA Standard 1910.242(b), for instance, limits the downstream pressure of a compressed air operated device used for cleaning purposes to 30psi. Now, you can regulate the supply pressure to meet this, but that also limits the effectiveness of the air flow generated.  EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products are all designed and manufactured to be in compliance with this standard, at any supply pressure.  Take, for example, our Super Air Nozzles:

Because none of our products can be dead-ended, there’s always a relief path preventing the downstream pressure from exceeding that level.

OSHA also has Standard 1910.95(a), that sets limits for maximum allowable noise exposure.  All EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, with the exception of some our largest and most power Super Air Nozzles (which aren’t normally used in areas that don’t already require hearing protection anyway) meet the 8-hour exposure limits of this standard.

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.

CE marking indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold withing the European Economic Area.  Unlike OSHA standards, responsibility for CE marking falls solely with the seller of the product – a CE marked product has been tested and certified to have been made in such a way to meet safety & quality benchmarks specified for that type of product.  All EXAIR products that are defined under applicable directives have been tested according to these standards, and carry the CE mark.

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, or RoHS, is another standard borne from the European Union, and is geared towards public & workplace safety by restricting the use of hazardous materials in the manufacture of electronic & electrical equipment.  Since its inception in 2006, similar standards have been vigorously adopted around the globe.  Electrical portions of EXAIR’s Static Eliminators, EFC Electronic Flow Controls, ETC Electronic Temperature Controls, Digital Flowmeters, Solenoid Valves, and Thermostats all comply with the RoHS Directive.

Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act doesn’t address a concern for product users, but rather a particularly troubling human rights issue – Conflict Minerals.  For almost two decades, trade in tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been used by some very bad people to finance violent campaigns against their neighbors.  EXAIR thoroughly and systematically documents our supply chain compliance with this act.  We are proudly committed to our support for this effort to the world a better place for everyone…especially those in desperate circumstances beyond their control.

EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products have been successfully implemented into a variety of uses where application- or industry-specific standards are in force.  We’re happy to work with you to determine if our products meet those standards…or can be made to meet them.  If you’ve got such an application, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Safety Air Guns – Using Engineered Air Nozzles For High Performance

Inexpensive air guns can be picked up just about anywhere, and you generally get what you pay for. Most will be very noisy and waste lots of compressed air.  And many will be unsafe, violating two of OSHA’s standards put in place to protect worker safety. The first is Standard 29 CFR 1910.95(a) which sets limits to the maximum noise exposure, and the second is Standard 29 CFR 1910.242(b) which says that the nozzle cannot be dead-ended, or exceed a 30 PSIG pressure limit.

These guns may seem like a perfect fit for a handheld blowoff application. The truth is, the cost saved up front will easily be paid throughout the cost of ownership.  This is due to the lack of an engineered nozzle which meets and exceeds the OSHA standards mentioned above.   The “cheap” guns often have a cross drilled hole to meet or exceed the OSHA standard for dead-end pressure. While this may be true, it causes a large wind sheer which escalates noise levels to well over the allowable noise level exposure set by OSHA.  These tips sometimes offer large force outputs because they are equivalent to an open pipe.  We have publicized numerous times about how an open pipe blow off does not permit pressure to be utilized all the way to the point of blowoff, and is also a waste of energy.

In order to determine how much compressed air your current blow guns utilize, the level of noise they product, and the sound level they produce, consider taking advantage of the EXAIR Efficiency Lab.  The Efficiency Lab is a free service that you can read more about here.

An EXAIR Safety Air Gun is engineered and designed to comply both of the OSHA standards mentioned above, ensuring safe operation for company personnel.  On top of the safety designed into the guns, we also ensure all of our guns are efficient by offering only engineered nozzles on them.

EXAIR offers (4) types of Safety Air Guns – the VariBlast, the Soft Grip, the Heavy Duty, and the Super Blast.  Each type of Safety Air Gun is offered with a plethora of nozzles, as well as varying length extensions, with or without the Chip Shield.

Safety Air Guns
The VariBlast, Soft Grip and Heavy Duty Style of Pistol Grip Safety Air Guns
Super Blast
The Super Blast Style of Safety Air Gun

 

We invite you to try out an EXAIR Safety Air Gun, and get the free 1″ Wide Flat Super Air Nozzle as a bonus. Click here for more details about this special promotional offer.

To discuss your application and how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can improve your process, feel free to contact EXAIR, myself, or one of our other Application Engineers. We can help you determine the best solution!

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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