Compressed air is used in a wide range of ways in most facilities. Things like operating tools to controlling machines, and much more are all done by compressed air. This is why it is so important to take compressed air safety very seriously.
No matter how much or how little you use it in your facility, make sure you look at the following five common hazards that are present when using compressed air. In addition, consider the safety tips that are associated with them so that you can minimize the risk to your employees and your facility.
5 Compressed Air Safety Hazards
1. Compressed Air is not a Toy
In a perfect world where people practiced common sense, this hazard would not be present. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. There are many times when people use the compressed air hoses as something like a toy, which can actually cause many serious injuries.
By blowing the air at another person, or even themselves, it can quickly result in problems. The following are some major medical concerns that may be present when people are playing with compressed air:
Internal Ruptures – Some people may think it would be funny to blow the air into their mouth. Since the air comes out so quickly, however, it can be forced down into the lungs, stomach or even intestines. When this occurs, they can rupture and cause very serious injury or even death.
Broken Skin – When blowing compressed air on the skin it can actually break through it, and enter the bloodstream. In addition to the serious skin damage, this air in the blood stream can cause death as it makes its way through to the heart and brain.
Blindness – The pressure from the air can cause very serious injury when it comes in contact with your eyes. The damage can happen in an instant, and result in permanent blindness.
Blowing Objects – If someone blows the compressed air at different objects, such as tools, they can be accelerated to very fast speeds. This can cause a major projectile risk within the facility.
Damaging the Facility – Compressed air not only puts people at risk when it is not treated properly, but also the facility. The high pressure air can, for example, blow off paint from a machine. It could also potentially blow floor marking tape, labels or any number of other things from where they need to be.
Remember, it doesn’t take too much air pressure to cause these types of injuries. Just 12 pounds of compressed air pressure can easily blow an eye right out of its socket. It can also break the skin and cause air pockets to form inside the body, which can be extremely dangerous. Make sure you keep this in mind when teaching about compressed air safety.
2. Damaged Hoses
Another potential risk of working with compressed air is when the hose is damaged. If people are working with old or frayed hoses the air can leak out, which reduces the pressure. This lack of pressure can cause machines to malfunction or cause other problems.
In addition, if the hose is damaged and then pressurized it could cause injury when it ‘explodes’ outward. This sudden release of the pressure can cause a machine to engage or disengage, resulting in injury. It can also cause injury to people who are holding the hose or even standing near it.
With this in mind, it is absolutely essential to make sure the air hoses are inspected on a regular basis to minimize the risk. If there is damage, they should either be replaced or repaired following the proper procedures.
3. Over-Inflating Objects
Many facilities will use compressed air to inflate tires, or even to inflate lifting balloons. Since compressed air can move so quickly, this is a very efficient way to get these types of jobs done. If someone accidently over-inflates the objects, however, they may be putting everyone at risk.
This happens most often when using a compressed air machine to fill up tires for any type of vehicle. When the tires are over-inflated, they could burst right on the spot. When this happens, it can cause an extremely loud noise, which can cause hearing damage. It could also cause severe injury to the person doing the actual inflating.
Another problem is when the tires are over-inflated and then people are driving on them. When the vehicle is loaded up with whatever it carries, they could be at higher risk of blowing out. Of course, a blown tire while driving can be very dangerous as well.
In order to avoid this type of problem, it is essential to make sure that everyone knows exactly how much pressure a tire or other object is supposed to have. The easiest way to do this is to use your industrial label printer to create custom labels for each item.
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Putting a label on the side of a company truck, for example, that says ‘inflate tires to 40 PSI’ will help ensure there are no mistakes made. Since these safety labels are so easy to make and inexpensive, you can put them in every area where people will be using compressed air to fill objects.
4. Poorly Maintained Tools
When people think about compressed air safety, they often only consider the actual air pressure as a hazard. The fact is, however, that the tools that are powered by this compressed air must also be very well maintained.
Tools like power wrenches, impact hammers, and many others require very high pressure to operate properly. If they are not kept well-oiled or otherwise maintained, they can become a significant hazard for the operator and those around them.
If you neglect the tools, they could seize up while in operation, and cause injury to the people working with or near them. With this in mind, it is best to keep a detailed log of when the tools were last inspected. In addition, for many tools, it is best to oil them between each use.
5. Compressed Air Generators
On the other end of the system is the actual machine that is used to compress the air. This is a fairly simple type of machine, where a motor forces the air into a tank where it is stored until it is needed. Keeping this machine in good working order is very important.
Keeping the motor in good condition, for example, may require oil changes or other lubrications. Also, make sure the electrical cord (if applicable) is not damaged in any way. You should also inspect the pressure gauges from time to time to ensure they are working properly.
If the machine builds up too much pressure within the tanks, they could burst. Since these tanks are normally made from metal, it could cause very serious injury to anyone in the area as well as the entire facility.
Taking Compressed Air Safety Training Seriously
Whenever providing employees with compressed air safety training, the most important thing is to make sure they all recognize the seriousness of the risks that are there. While compressed air normally works well with very few problems, the risks are real and very serious.
When everyone does their part and watches out for potential hazards, it will help ensure everyone can get their jobs done properly and there is at little risk as possible. Without proper care, however, even minor mistakes or oversights can put the entire facility in danger.