Compressed air is made use of in all kinds of manufacturing processes, with nearly every machine and process used in industrial environments utilising some type of pressurised gas or air and some utilising an air hose.
Its common use can be a double edged sword however, resulting in people failing to realise just how much of a potential hazard it can actually be. In the wrong situation even just 12 PSI could be lethal, and small mistakes can have very serious consequences.
There are many different tasks for which it is necessary to use compressed air such as pneumatics, refrigeration equipment, inflation devices, air brakes and breathing equipment. The intense pressure contained within the canisters means that even when they are stationary and left unused they still pose a potential risk, as a leak could result in equipment failure and the likes of a puncture could even cause an explosion.
Those may be worst case scenarios but it is still important to know the possible risks as a first step toward ensuring the safety of compressed air.
High pressure risks
While high pressure air carries with it some obvious risks, some risks may be less immediately obvious but still very real. These risks include foreign objects become lodged beneath skin or the body being bruised or cut by flying particles, eye injuries resulting in sight loss, the lungs or oesophagus being ruptured because of air getting blown into the mouth, a fatal embolism due to an air bubble being entered into the bloodstream and loud sounds causing hearing damage or loss.
A greater understanding of the risks that are associated with pressurised gas or air is also vital to ensure workplace and job site safety.
Compression air safety tips
There are a number of tips that should be followed in order to ensure compression air safety.
One good tip is to make certain to always follow pressure limitations and ratings. An explosion can result from filling up automotive tires with compressed air, so it is crucial to pay close attention to pressure ratings and limitations and check the tire pressure with a gauge. There are also maximum operating pressure ratings on air hoses and lines, and the limitations of all items of equipment should be checked prior to use.
It is also very important to check to ensure that an air hose and line is in good condition before using them. Damaged nozzles, holes and tears can result in clogs or leaks, issues that can cause people to turn the pressure up to unsafe levels to try to compensate. This should never be done and all equipment should be checked to make sure it is in proper working order before being used.
It is vital to always be wearing PPE when working with compressed air. This includes the likes of safety glasses with side shields, hearing protection, face masks and on occasion even full-face shields and respiratory protection if necessary.
Standard work attire does not provide enough protection from pressurised air, so proper protective clothing should be worn at all times.
Caution should always be exercised around any kind of pressurised gas on job sites, in factories or at home.