Compressed air systems used in shops may appear to be relatively harmless. However, to avoid accidents, compressed air systems must be used correctly. The improper use may cause serious personal injury and the inadvertent connection of tools not designed for the high pressures will, more than likely, damage the tool.

Compressed air is extremely forceful and, depending on its pressure, can dislodge particles that have the potential to enter a worker’s eyes or abrade the skin. There have also been reports of hearing damage caused by the pressure of compressed air and its sound. On rare occasions, some of the compressed air can enter the blood stream through a break in the skin or through a body opening. An air bubble in the blood stream, known medically as an embolism, is a dangerous medical condition. The air bubble can block the blood vessel, such as an artery, and can cause coma, paralysis, or death depending upon its size, duration, and location.

The following recommendations can help workers avoid the risks of personal injury and equipment damage when using compressed air:

Maintain the air compressor in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Ensure all personnel are familiar with the compressor’s operating instructions.

Ensure the maximum working pressure of compressed air lines is identified in psi, and that pipeline outlets are tagged or marked, immediately adjacent to the outlet, with their maximum working pressures.

Require personnel to Inspect air supply and tool hoses before use, discarding damaged hoses.

Ensure the air-supply shutoff valves are located as near as possible to the points-of-operation.

Ensure compressed air is not used to blow dirt, chips, or dust from clothing.

Do not apply compressed air to any part of the body, even for cleaning off dirt.

Do not use compressed air to transfer materials from containers when there is a possibility of exceeding the safe maximum allowable working pressure of the container.

Do not use compressed air to transfer materials from standard 55-gal (208.3 L) drums – use a siphon with a bulk aspirator on a pump.

Do not use compressed air to clean machinery or parts unless absolutely necessary; where possible, use a brush and wear goggles to protect your eyes.

Do not use a compressed air line that does not have a pressure regulator for regulating the line pressure.

Ensure the hose length between tool housing and the air source is as short as possible.

Attach a short length of light chain between the hose and the housing on air-operated tools – this keeps the hose from whipping should the hose-tool coupling separate.

Ensure valves are off and pressure vented before any line is connected or disconnected.

Do not connect air supply respirators or supplied-air suits to the compressed air supply system of any building – such compressed air is unsafe to breathe.

Do not attach pneumatic tools and process or control instruments to breathing air lines – the contaminated air would be hazardous to workers.

COPYRIGHT ©2005, ISO Services Properties, Inc.