Hearing loss due to high noise levels is a common problem in many industrial facilities. Without the use of proper PPE, hearing loss can occur quickly. This is a serious concern as hearing loss is permanent and once the damage is done there’s no way to reverse it. Due to this risk, OSHA strictly enforces standard 29 CFR-1910.95(a).
This directive discusses the effects of noise and limits exposure based on the dBA. The table below indicates the maximum allowable exposure time to different noise levels. Sound levels that exceed these levels should first be addressed by proper engineering controls such as isolating the source of the sound from personnel or replacing the cause of the sound with something like an engineered compressed air nozzle. When such controls aren’t feasible, proper PPE must be worn to protect the operator.
Hearing loss can occur in as little as 30 minutes when exposed to sound levels 110 dBA or greater. Operators have a tendency not to use PPE as directed, if an OSHA inspector comes to your facility and notices that the sound levels exceed the maximum allowable level without protection hefty fines will be soon to follow. In this example from the United States Department of Labor, a company was fined a total of $143,000 for failing to protect their employees.
In order to identify the places or processes in your facility that are causing the problems, you’ll need a tool to measure the sound level. EXAIR’s easy to use Digital Sound Level Meter allows you to measure and monitor the sound level pressure in a wide variety of industrial environments. The source of the loud noise can then be identified and isolated so that corrective action can be taken. For compressed air related noise, EXAIR manufactures a wide variety of engineered compressed air products that can reduce the sound level dramatically. In many cases, EXAIR products are capable of reducing noise levels by as much as 10 dBA. Since the dBA scale is logarithmic, this equates to cutting the sound level in half!
If there are processes within your facility that are above these limits, and you’d like to eliminate relying on proper PPE, give an Application Engineer a call. We’ll help walk you through the selection process and make sure that when the OSHA inspector comes knocking you’re prepared!
EXAIR has been at the forefront of safety and efficiency when it comes to blow-off devices since 1983. We understand the importance of keeping personnel and the workplace safe. Controlling employee’s exposure to hazards is a fundamental method of protecting them. The CDC published a useful guide called “Hierarchy of Controls” detailing five types of control methods as a means to implement effective solutions.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Elimination removes the hazard from the source. Elimination is at the top of the chart because it is the best way to protect workers. In my previous line of work, we had to use MEK to dilute a solvent-based epoxy. By switching over to a water-based epoxy, we were able to eliminate the chemical hazard from our process. In some situations, this can be a difficult task, but the elimination criteria should be the first thing to review.
Substitution is looking for a different but safer modification to the source of the hazard. An example would be static elimination. If we take into consideration an ionization bar to remove static, there are manufacturers that make “hot” bars that will shock the operator if they get too close to the ionizing point. EXAIR Gen4 Ionizing Bars are shockless. By substituting the “hot” bars with EXAIR Gen4 Ionizing Bars, you just removed the shock hazard for your operators. When considering substitution, it is important to compare the new risk of the replacement to the original risk. Remember, we are trying to reduce the potential effects of injuries.
The CDC explains these first two methods with this statement, “Elimination and substitution can be the most difficult actions to adopt into an existing process. These methods are best used at the design or development stage of a work process, place, or tool. At the development stage, elimination and substitution may be the simplest and cheapest options. Another good opportunity to use elimination and substitution is when selecting new equipment or procedures. Prevention through Design is an approach to proactively including prevention when designing work equipment, tools, operations, and spaces.”1
Engineering controls are very common. Companies can evaluate an area for hazards and address them with proven controls. This can be as simple as adding light curtains to a stamping machine. Another area would be using compressed air for blow-off applications. EXAIR has been providing engineered products to reduce these hazards. We offer Super Air Nozzles, Safety Air Guns, Super Air Knives, and Air Amplifiers to reduce the noise level and dead-end pressure as found in the OSHA directives 29CFR 1910.65(a) for maximum allowable noise exposure and 29CFR 1910.242(b) for dead-end pressure/chip shielding. By adding an engineered nozzle like our Super Air Nozzle over an open pipe, it will protect your workers, stop OSHA fines, and reduce energy costs.
These controls will move personnel or change the process to limit the length of exposure time to the hazard. As you notice, this is toward the bottom of the Hierarchy chart as one of the least effective ways for dealing with a hazard. As an example, an operator is exposed to a blow-off application that has a noise level of 95 dBA. The maximum exposure time allowed by OSHA is 4 hours. So, another operator would have to be placed in that area to work another 4 hours. But, if the company added a Super Air Nozzle to the blow-off device, then the noise level would be reduced to 74 dBA. Now, you can have one operator run the machine for the full 8 hours.
Personal Protection Equipment, or PPE, is equipment that is purchased to help protect the operators from hazards. What may the problem be? First, you have to train the operators on how to properly use them, as well as trust that they will follow the instruction explicitly. It also adds cost to purchase and maintain them. This is why this method is the least effective.
At EXAIR, we have a statement: “Safety is everyone’s responsibility.” The idea behind the Hierarchy of Controls is to help review hazardous areas and implement safer products. EXAIR can help your company follow the Hierarchy of Controls, to eliminate or reduce the hazards of compressed air usage. Many EXAIR products, including Super Air Knives, Super Air Nozzles, Safety Air Guns, and Air Amplifiers are engineered to meet OSHA standards. If you have questions or want to talk to an EXAIR Application Engineer, please contact us to discuss how our products will be beneficial to your work environment’s safety.
Medically speaking, our skin is an organ…and an amazing one at that. It protects our internals from an incredibly harsh environment as we’re bombarded by radiation (sunlight), subjected to summer’s heat & the cold of winter, attacked by fierce invaders (from viruses & bacteria to insects & spiders), all while we carry on at the bottom of a 60 mile-deep ocean (of air!)
Our skin requires some protection too: Sunscreen mitigates some of the harmful effects of solar radiation, shoes protect our feet from the ground, gloves & coats prevent frostbite, and compliance with OSHA Standard 1910.242(b) protects operators who use compressed air devices for cleaning purposes from air embolisms. That’s when air, under pressure, has enough energy to break the skin (tough as it is) and reach the tissue underneath. It’s painful, and serious enough that the victim should absolutely seek emergency medical treatment. If the air breaks a blood vessel and enters the pulmonary system, it can be deadly, in a hurry.
In 1971, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) determined that air under pressure higher than 30 pounds per square inch is capable of causing such injuries, if the pressurized source is dead-ended into the skin. Based on this determination, they included the following verbiage in Standard 1910.242, regulating the safe operation of hand and portable powered tools & equipment:
1910.242(b)Compressed air used for cleaning. Compressed air shall not be used for cleaning purposes except where reduced to less than 30 p.s.i. and then only with effective chip guarding and personal protective equipment.
In February 1972, OSHA issued Instruction STD 01-13-001 to clarify the meaning of 1910.242(b), with two illustrations of acceptable methods to meet compliance. The first is the use of a pressure reducer (or regulator):
The other method illustrated in the Instruction’s enclosures involves the nozzles themselves:
One design that complies with OSHA 1910.242(b) using this method is the cross drilled nozzle:
If you’re not concerned about high operating cost or deafening noise, you can stop reading now; these are all you need for OSHA compliance with Standard 1910.242(b). If you DO care about spending less money on compressed air or complying with OSHA Standard 1910.95(a) (which you read all about here), let’s spend a minute on engineered compressed air nozzles:
In addition to making them cost less to operate (since most of the total developed air flow is entrained), they’re also VERY quiet (since the entrained air forms a boundary layer on the outside of the air stream), AND they can’t be dead ended:
All EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, in fact, incorporate a form of built-in “relief device”:
If you’d like to discuss safe use of compressed air, it’s one of our primary goals here at EXAIR – give me a call.
Russ Bowman, CCASS
Application Engineer EXAIR LLC Visit us on the Web Follow me on Twitter Like us on Facebook
I have seen over the years where OSHA inspectors has visited manufacturing plants for violations. One of the more common areas that they review are compressed air guns because many of them are very dangerous for Dead-End pressure and noise levels. All of EXAIR Safety Air Guns are OSHA compliant. But there is an additional OSHA guideline 1910.242(b) that deals with Chip guarding and shields for cleaning purposes. With these types of applications, EXAIR offers Chip Shields; either as an option with our Safety Air Guns; or as Chip Shields only, or as a Chip Shield kit. In this video, I will go over the Chip Shield Kits that will add a chip shield to your existing EXAIR Safety Air Gun.