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Compressed Air Safety

​This Tailgate Talk is part of the NLTAPA collection.

Compressed air is often misjudged and not recognized as a hazard because people think of air as harmless.


  • Air forced into body tissues through skin can cause an air embolism (air bubbles in the bloodstream) which can be fatal if it reaches the heart, lungs, or brain.


  • Inflation injuries of the intestine can be caused by air being directed at private body areas. A worker in the U.K. died of injuries sustained through horseplay with a compressed air hose. The act of horseplay can be deadly!


  • Air blown into the mouth at only 5 PSI can rupture the esophagus or the lungs.


  • Eye and ear injuries can occur from a blast of air or flying particles. These types of eye and ear injuries can cause partial or total loss of sight and hearing.


  • The sound from a compressed air hose can reach 120-130 dB which is well above OSHA’s 90dB permissible exposure limit.


  • 40 PSI can blow out an ear drum from 4 inches away and possibly cause brain damage.


  • As little as 12 PSI can blow an eye out of its socket!


  • Flying particles can cause cuts and bruises to any part of the body.



Remember:


  • Hoses and lines should be rated to meet the maximum operating pressure of the equipment.


  • Always wear proper Personal Protective Equipment:


  • Safety glasses with side shields and a face shield if needed


  • Hearing protection


  • Respiratory protection, depending on the material(s) being worked with


  • Normal work clothing is not protection against compressed air.


  • If you must clean with compressed air, do not use air that is set above 30 PSI. You must also have effective chip guarding and proper PPE (OSHA standard 1910.242(b)).


  • NEVER USE COMPRESSED AIR TO CLEAN CLOTHING OR HAIR!


  • NEVER POINT COMPRESSED AIR AT YOURSELF OR ANOTHER PERSON!



Action Item:


Go through the manufacturer’s safety recommendations in the air compressor’s safety manual and read and understand the maintenance requirements for the compressor.



Resources and References:


VOSHA/OSHA Standards 29CFR1910.135 and 1926.100 for more information Standards are available at http://www.osha.gov/laws-regs.html