Take Care With Compressed Air

Compressed air tools are commonly used in many workplaces. Many workers take them for granted, ignoring the hazards involved in their use. Compressed air  is not “just air.” It is a focused stream of air driven at a high velocity, which can cause serious injury or death to its operator or persons in the immediate area. 
Fooling around with compressed air can be lethal. In one case, a blast of air playfully directed behind a worker startled him and caused him to fall against a moving piece of machinery. A misdirected blast of compressed air can “pop” an eyeball from its socket, rupture an eardrum, or cause a brain hemorrhage. Directed at the mouth, it can rupture the lungs and intestines. If used to blow dust and dirt off clothing or body parts, it can cause bubbles of air to enter blood stream, even through a layer of clothing. Compressed air can also rupture body organs. 
To prevent accidental injury when working with compressed air, here are several precautions to follow: 

  • A compressed-air tool operator must wear eye and ear protection as well as other appropriate personal protective equipment. 

  • Before operating an air hose, examine all connections to make sure they are tight and will not come loose under pressure. A loose air hose can make a dangerous bullwhip.  

  • Check the air hose carefully to make sure it is in good condition before opening the valve to let air into the hose; when the job is finished, turn off the valves on both the tool and the air line.

  • Hold the nozzle when turning the air on and off. 

  • Before turning on the air pressure, make sure that dirt from machinery will not be blown onto other workers. 

  • Don’t kink to stop the airflow; always turn off the air and the control valve. Continuously check the condition of a compressed air tool and the air hose for damage or signs of failure. 

  • Never point a compressed air hose nozzle at any part of your body or another person.

  • Never use compressed air for a practical joke. 

  • Never look into the “business-end” of  a compressed air tool. 

  • Never use compressed air to clean work clothes or machinery. 

  • Keep air hoses out of aisle ways where they can be damaged by traffic or be a trip hazard. 

  • Compressed air tools are safe and reliable when properly and sensibly used. 

Contact OMAG Risk Management Services if you have questions or suggestions for other topics related to Municipal Workplace Safety Issues. 1 (800) 234-9461 or Kip Prichard at kprichard@omag.org.


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