11 tips to increase workplace safety when working with compressed air

11 tips to increase workplace safety when working with compressed air

Working with compressed air requires a safety mindset. Being aware of the hazards and having the right equipment is essential for a safe workplace, and it should be safe and reliable without having an impact on performance and efficiency.

In the U.S, more than 25 percent of all workplace-related injuries, involving days away from work, come from slips, trips and fall accidents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workplace floors can easily be cluttered with cables and hoses lying around as potential tripping hazards.

Tripping accidents are just one of several potential risks when working with compressed air, and there is a lot that can be done to prevent these. Here are our safety tips for a safer and more efficient work environment when working with compressed air.

1. Retractable hose reels, preferably in an overhead position
Using a hose reel that easily retracts the hose will minimize the risk of hoses and cables lying on the floor when they are not used. Ideally, hose reels should be installed in an overhead position to keep the floor area clear and make them easily accessible for workers.

2. Contrasting color hoses (high visibility)
Hoses should always be safely retracted in the hose reel when they are not used. In cases where hoses are left on the ground, hoses should be in a color that pops out from the floor making them more visible. Instead of tripping over the hose, the workers can easily spot it and step over it. A high-visibility hose is designed to be easily spotted against most surfaces and even under low lighting conditions. If you can see the danger, you can also avoid it.

3. Hose reels with safe retraction speed
A hose reel with controlled retraction speed securely and precisely guides the hose into the casing. This can prevent injuries to workers and damage to material surfaces caused by uncontrollably retracting hoses attached with both quick connect couplings and tools.

4. Trip-proof stop ball
For hoses lying on the ground, any tool that is attached to the hose is a tripping hazard. The stop ball on the retractable hose reel can also be a potential tripping hazard. Hose reels are typically equipped with a hard stop ball in either a spherical or cylindrical shape. Accidentally stepping on the stop ball will be a risk of tripping accidents or injuries such as sprains or tears. By using a hose reel with a soft stop ball, the ball will collapse instead of rolling away, minimizing the risk of accidents.

5. Soft covers to avoid damage to surrounding objects
Using soft covers on the quick connect couplings protects surrounding objects from damage, and the abrasion-resistant surface protects the quick coupler from external influences and thus from damage, extending the expected lifetime of the coupling.

6. Check the equipment for dirt and damage
Always check that both the hose and the quick couplings are in good working condition before use. A damaged hose may swell and burst. Damaged equipment should be replaced immediately. Dirt on and in a quick connect coupling can cause malfunction with serious injuries as a result.

7. Vented quick connect couplings
Upon disconnection, a conventional quick coupling will set the hose flying with a characteristic loud blast. A vented safety coupling releases the downstream pressure before the coupling is disconnected. There will be no hose whip recoil and the vented air will just make a discreet fizz. Vented safety couplings are well worth the investment to increase the workers’ safety by both protecting their hearing and against possible bruising on disconnection.

8. Safe blowguns for cleaning purposes
Compressed air is not the same as ordinary air. Compressed air is condensed and contained at a pressure that is greater than the atmosphere. The pressure comes from this air when it is trying to return to its original volume. When used, it forms a concentrated stream of air at high pressure and high speed. Even with several layers of clothing, air can penetrate the skin causing severe injuries, i.e. air embolism.

Be safe when using compressed air for cleaning. When dead-ending a blowgun, the static pressure at the main orifice of the blowgun should not exceed 30 PSI (2 bar). Always use a safety blow gun for cleaning purposes to avoid the dangerously high air pressure getting in contact with the body.

9. Blowguns with chip guard
An effective chip guarding prevents the chips or particles, of whatever size, from being blown into the eyes or unbroken skin of the operator. A chip shield can both be mechanical and created with an air curtain, choose the best way of protection depending on applications and chip type.

10. Low-noise blowguns
Use a blowgun with a low noise level whenever noise exposure levels exceed an 8-hour, time-weighted average sound level of 85 dB(A). Employers should implement a noise conservation program to protect employees from hearing damages.

11. Follow local regulations and standards
Make sure that the equipment that is being used is following local market regulations and standards, such as the U.S Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations (OSHA requirements), European Standards and Directives, and local Work Environment Authorities. These regulations are, among others, setting and enforcing standards for safety and quality.

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