Full Guide to Air Compressor Safety

Last updated on: March 25th, 2020 at: 01:13 am

Full Guide to Air Compressor Safety


Table of Contents

i. What Are the Hazards of Compressed Air?

ii. Using an Air Compressor Safely

iii. What Precautions Should Be Taken When Using Compressed Air?

iv. Compressor Troubleshooting

v. Compressor Maintenance

vi. General Operator Safety

vii. Air Compressor Safety Tips

viii. Is It Safe to Breathe Air From a Compressor?

ix. Can an Air Compressor Kill You?

x. Get New Compressed Air Equipment From Quincy Compressor

Safety is one of the primary concerns in any working environment, whether it’s a construction site, a factory or another setting. You want to ensure your employees are safe at all times, maintain high morale among your workforce and decrease the possibility of damaged or broken machinery. By employing a practical set of safety measures, your company can benefit from increased uptime and fewer repair or replacement expenses.

Having a set of safety measures in place is especially important when working with air compressors and other high-powered machinery. It’s essential that all operators have the proper training, have read the instruction manuals thoroughly and understand how to mitigate safety risks and potential damage. Manuals contain a wealth of information and will tell you how to keep your compressors running for longer periods without damage or injury.

There are also plenty of resources that discuss how to maintain safety while operating air compressors. This guide will take you through the basics of using an air compressor, what to check before use, what to monitor and how to keep operators and workspaces safe to minimize air compressor dangers.

What Are the Hazards of Compressed Air?


Air compressors are useful for many jobs, but they can also become dangerous when not maintained properly or misused. They use electricity and high air pressures to run pneumatic tools. The tools, hoses, compressor machines and electric connections can all pose hazards in the workplace. The dangers of air compressors include harm to workers and machinery. For example, if an outlet isn’t grounded correctly, it can result in electrical shocks for your operators or irreparable damage for the machine.

Highly pressurized air and pneumatic tools can cause flying particles and debris. If it strikes an operator, the pieces can cause bodily injury, or it can become lodged in the machine, causing damage. In some cases, the pressure can also inject air into the body, potentially resulting in injuries or ruptures. The noise from the compressor machine can also cause hearing loss. However, operators and workers can mitigate these dangers by following proper safety measures and air compressor precautions.

Using an Air Compressor Safely

Using an Air Compressor Safely

In many industries, understanding air compressors is vital. For businesses that use them often, any operators need to undergo proper training and learn the safety standards before use. If you upgrade your air compressors or make any repairs, it’s essential to provide follow up instruction or give them the rundown about what to monitor. Anyone using a compressor should focus on education first.

Before using the compressor, you need to check its vitals to make sure it will work properly. Some of the elements you should look at include:

  • Oil level: It’s essential to check and see if the machine is well lubricated. Using it without an adequate amount of oil can ruin it to the point of requiring costly repairs or replacement. If it needs more oil, add it to the reservoir but be careful not to overfill it. Also, be sure to keep it from spilling onto the exterior of the compressor.
  • Lubrication: All pneumatic tools require proper lubrication to function at maximum efficiency. You must apply the recommended lubricants for every tool. However, it isn’t wise to use a particular lubricant if you’re unable to verify whether or not it’s flammable.
  • Fuel level: To run the compressor, you’ll need enough fuel. It can be a pain to have to refill in the middle of a job, as it requires you to stop, allow the compressor time to cool off, then refill the tank. Don’t refuel your air compressor when it’s currently activated or has been shut off for only a short time. You should only conduct refuels and oil changes when the machine is cold.
  • Air filter: Whether you’ve allowed the compressor to sit for a while between uses or you use it often, check the air filter before use. If it appears dirty or clogged, you should remove and wash it — if you have the right kind of screen — or replace it with a new unit.
  • Air connection: Before activating any sort of pneumatic tool, it must be connected to a source of air. Whenever a part is connected weakly or fitted loosely to a corresponding piece of equipment, it can jeopardize the performance of the tool and leave you vulnerable to injury.
  • Relief valves: For optimal function, pneumatic tools must receive air at high pressure. It’s never wise to alter, eliminate, or evade a relief valve on a compressor. Manufacturers place them strategically to help ensure your safety during operations.
  • Rust:One of the most dangerous possibilities in a work setting is to allow a tank to become rusty. Rust increases its chances of combusting, putting anyone nearby in danger. For obvious reasons, it’s crucial to keep it drained with the underside valve on a day-to-day basis. In any case, don’t try to repair a rusted tank. Once rusting occurs, the tank is due for a replacement.
  • Workspace air circulation:Intake air contains pollutants and carbon monoxide that can be hazardous to your health. For these reasons and more, it’s essential to keep your workspace circulated with clean, natural air at all times.
  • Workspace humidity: If you work in an environment that’s prone to high temperatures, it’s important to decrease moisture in the air. Try to increase the air circulation within your work area. Also, consider operating the compressor for longer durations or setting up a peripheral crankcase heater. Adding a dryer to the system will also remove moisture.
  • Outlets: Only plug your air compressor into an outlet with the proper grounding. If an outlet isn’t grounded correctly, it could damage the electrical circuitry of the machine and potentially ignite flames.

It’s also essential to make sure that any tools you have hooked to the air compressors don’t have pulled triggers before you power up the machine. If everything appears to be in order, you can start up the compressor and begin using your tools. You should also check any OSHA air compressor safety regulations that apply to your uses or machines. To best keep track of any issues and ensure you’ve looked at all the areas, create an air compressor safety checklist for your operators to complete before each job.

Also, be sure to wear the proper safety gear for the job. No matter what tool you’re using in a given project, it’s vital to wear protective gear for your ears and eyes at all times. According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 22 million workers face exposure to potentially harmful noise every year. The risks involved with failing to wear hearing guards might not always seem apparent at first, but side effects from the impact of noise are often experienced later, in some cases years down the line.

You should also protect your lungs from the toxins of chemicals in the air. Sources of ventilation should be open in any space where chemicals are used or compressors are being operated.

What Precautions Should Be Taken When Using Compressed Air?

While you should check the compressor thoroughly before using it, you also have to keep an eye out for any potential issues while you’re using the unit. Once you start the machine and begin your projects, be sure to check the following items consistently:

  • Voltage: Keep an eye on the air compressor’s voltage. If any repairs are needed, lock out, un-power the machine and bleed the tank’s pressure. If you have an air compressor that has been designed primarily for indoor operations, don’t allow it to be in outdoor conditions exposed to rain or wet environments.
  • Drain valves: If there’s an electric drain valve on your air compressor, keep that part of the unit no less than a foot and a half off the ground. Electric drain valves can’t be anywhere near moisture because they come equipped with sparking parts.
  • Air source:Be sure to check the air source itself on a regular basis to ensure optimal performance and efficiency.
  • Surroundings: While operator safety is first and foremost, they also need to watch out for other workers and ensure they’re keeping the surrounding workplace safe. Make sure all your cables and wires are tucked away where no one can trip and that you keep your area clean.

Compressor Troubleshooting

Throughout your time using an air compressor unit, you may face the need to troubleshoot issues. If you perform proper maintenance, you can increase the longevity of your machine and better protect your workers. For proper air compressor safety, be sure to check:

  • Air supply:In the event of anything going wrong with the air supply, make sure there is a shutoff valve within reach at all times. If something goes wrong with an air hose — for example, if it starts flapping uncontrollably — don’t try to control it manually. Cut the air source before going near.
  • Hoses: If a hose malfunctions or comes apart at the coupling, whipping can be prevented with two applications. One is an air fuse of proper size, which should be installed in the hose upstream. The other is a whip-inhibiting device, which should be placed along the coupling of a hose.
  • Safety: Before you install, remove, fine-tune or perform any kind of maintenance on your pneumatic impact tools or accessory parts, do three things: shut off the source of air, bleed the air pressure, and disengage the air hose.
  • Cleanliness: Keeping the unit clean is essential to safety and will help avoid any potential issues. You should always ensure that you’re using clean air lines and changing or washing the filter regularly. Don’t allow grease or oil to deposit or linger on an air hose, as grease can cause hoses to deteriorate. Also, wipe down the air tanks if they’re exposed to water or corrosive liquids. Rusting can occasionally cause tank failures or explosions.

If anything is damaged or compromised, it’s essential to repair or replace the elements with reliable parts.

Compressor Maintenance

Performing continual maintenance is essential to keeping your compressor running smoothly and safely. It can increase the longevity of your machine and improve its capabilities. Running a clean, well-kept machine will also promote the wellbeing of your workers and operators and help avoid compressed air safety hazards. To perform adequate maintenance, the operator should:

  • Clean the unit:For an air compressor to function for as many years as possible at its maximum potential, it needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. As part of that process, a purging of the air system should follow each cleaning. When it comes to cleaning carbon remnants from the various parts of an air compressor, it’s safe to use a tower saturated with lye-based water, but you should never use anything flammable, such as kerosene.
  • Ensure safety:When performing maintenance on a machine, lock open the compressor’s electrical switch and tag it as such so that it isn’t started by mistake. Any type of electric air compressor, whether portable or stationary, should be disconnected from its power source before performing maintenance, cleaning or lube work.
  • Lubricate properly: When lubricating compressor parts, don’t use low flash point oils. Such lubricants could possibly ignite flames or cause combustion due to the high temperatures at which compressors operate. Though it’s important to keep machine parts lubricated, avoid over-lubrication, as too much can cause corrosion.
  • Keep air sources clean: If any machines, tools or components are placed directly outside of a work facility, the exhausts should be pointed in the opposite direction of any openings to the building, such as windows, doors or air ducts.

General Operator Safety

Operators should remain in control of compressor units at all times. They should be concerned with their safety and the safety of those nearby. For the operator, sound footing and standing on a level surface at a safe distance from the unit is as essential as keeping their hands, clothing and hair away from the air nozzle and tools. Also, operators should pay attention to:

  • Nozzle direction and pressure: Compressed air is not suitable for cleaning clothing or human skin. When using shop air for cleaning purposes, don’t exceed 15 psi without the aid of a nozzle.
  • Air inlet: At the inlet, the air that goes in should be clean and free of moisture, with a maximum of 90 psig pressure, unless the tool itself has a pressure rating set to a higher level. If the maximum pressure rating of a particular tool is surpassed, it could cause any given number of dangers, such as cracks, undue velocity, or faulty pressure or output torque.
  • Shutoff valve: The shutoff valve should always be visible and within reach when working with compressed air.
  • Hoses: Don’t allow hoses or cords to hang along floors or aisles, as it could cause people to trip and possibly get injured and/or pull cords and cut power supplies. As an alternative, suspend hoses overhead wherever possible.
  • Grounding: Pneumatic tools are capable of generating static energy, and must be grounded whenever activated. This is especially true when in the presence of flammable or combustible elements, such as fuel or explosives.

Air Compressor Safety Tips

Air Compressor Safety Tips

Beyond the general tips for maintenance and operation, there are also safety procedures and measures for particular parts of the compressor. The top three areas include the air receivers, distribution lines and pressure regulation devices. Each of these is significant in maintaining a healthy machine and operating it safely.

Air Receivers

  • Draining: Barring the presence of an automatic drain, an air receiver needs to be drained on a regular basis in order to prevent liquid buildup on the inside.
  • Gauges and valves: Every air receiver should feature a pressure gauge, as well as a suitable ASME safety valve.
  • Release: To keep the working pressure from going over the recommended maximum, every receiver should contain a spring-loaded release valve.

Distribution Lines

  • Gauges and valves: Every air receiver should feature a pressure gauge, as well as a suitable ASME safety valve.
  • Release: To keep the working pressure from going over the recommended maximum, every receiver should contain a spring-loaded release valve.
  • Air hoses: Don’t allow air hoses to get kinked or bent. Check air lines on a regular basis for flaws, ruptures or any other imperfections. Immediately replace all defective air lines.
  • Tags: To prevent exceeding the maximum working pressure on a given air line, use tags to mark the psi on each one.

Pressure Regulation Devices

  • Valves: The safety valves on an air tank should be set at least 10 percent higher than the compressor’s operating pressure but should never exceed the working pressure limit of the air receiver.
  • Cold temperatures: If a device is used in freezing temperatures, the safety valves should be positioned to prevent water from gathering inside. If a valve becomes frozen, it must be thawed and emptied out before the compressor is reactivated.
  • Air intake:The intake should only receive air from a fresh, pure, natural, outdoor source. To help the intake air stay pure, apply a screen or filter at the intake valve.
  • Speed: Never run an air compressor at speeds that exceed the maximum level recommended in the accompanying manual of instructions.

Is It Safe to Breathe Air From a Compressor?

Depending on where you’re working, the intake air can contain pollutants and contaminants that are harmful to your health. From carbon monoxide to dust and debris, the air in the compressor collects from the surrounding space. To keep yourself safe while using the compressor unit, you must work in an area with proper airflow or natural air access, as well as protective gear, such as a respirator or dust mask.

Can an Air Compressor Kill You?

While the likelihood of a workplace fatality due to an air compressor failure is low, it can happen in some extreme circumstances. If a compressor tank explodes, it can endanger your workers’ lives, but typically, the highest amount of danger lies with the operator. Due to the high pressures and pneumatic tools attached, operators must abide by all the safety rules and regulations, including having the proper protective gear.

Get New Compressed Air Equipment From Quincy Compressor

Get New Compressed Air Equipment From Quincy Compressor

As one of the world’s leading sellers of compressed air products for nearly 100 years, Quincy offers an array of machines and parts for many industries. With our one-of-a-kind offers and round-the-clock support, we’ve supplied and serviced businesses in the automotive, manufacturing and construction sectors, among others.

People have various uses for compressed air, and at Quincy, we’ve got them all covered. With Quincy, there’s no application too demanding for our top-of-the-line products to handle with utmost ease and maximum efficiency. Everyone who shops with us receives support from our authorized partners, day or night, as well as industry-leading warranties on select compressor products.

If you’re in the market for compressed air devices or related equipment, explore our website, where you can download whitepapers for more info on our wide range of products.