How to Work Safely with Compressed Air
Safety is one of the primary concerns of any working environment, whether it’s in a construction or factory setting. You want to ensure your employees are safe at all times, avoid injuries, and know that your workforce is always intact with high morale.
Safety measures also decrease the possibility of machinery getting damaged or broken. Your company is less likely to endure unexpected down times or incur costly repairs or replacements when you operate according to a practical set of safety measures.
When operating high-powered machinery such as air compressors and other impact tools that utilize air pressure, even the smallest mishandling can cause damage to the machine itself, as well as to any connected or nearby parts. It’s important to read instruction manuals fully, so you and your team can fully understand how to handle, activate, and operate any machinery.
Even though such manuals can sometimes seem pedantic and convoluted, they contain a wealth of information that will keep your work team safe. Reading the manuals also helps to ensure that each piece of equipment remains in optimal working condition for the longest possible time.
There are also a number of shorter and more concise measures that you can follow to maintain general safety standards on your worksite. The following lists will help you stay safe, learn how to properly operate your air compressors, and provide general tips for regulation and maintenance.
How to Use an Air Compressor
- The machine and its peripheral equipment should only be handled and maintained by skilled, qualified personnel.
- Intake air should never be inhaled because it generally 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.
- Monitor 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.
- 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 because they’re strategically placed to help ensure your safety during operations.
- One of the most dangerous possibilities in a work setting is to allow a tank to become rusty. This will make it more likely to combust. This situation could put anyone near the tank in grave danger. For obvious reasons, it’s crucial to keep the tank drained with the underside valve on a day-to-day basis. In any case, don’t try to repair a rusted tank. Once rusting has occurred, the tank is due for a replacement.
- If you work in an environment that’s prone to high temperatures, there are steps that can be taken 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.
- 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.
- Don’t refuel your air compressor when it’s currently activated or has been shut off for only a short time. Refuels and oil changes should only be done when the machine is cool.
- Before you power on the air compressor, make sure no tools have been pulled at the trigger.
- Only plug your air compressor into an outlet with the proper grounding. If an outlet isn’t grounded properly, it could damage the electrical circuitry of the machine and potentially ignite flames.
Air Compression Safety Tips
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- All pneumatic tools require proper lubrication in order to function at maximum efficiency. You must apply the recommended lubricants for any given tool in question. However, it isn’t wise to use a particular lubricant if you’re unable to verify whether or not it’s flammable.
- 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.
- Never put your hands anywhere near the end of an active pneumatic tool. For similar reasons, never allow clothing or hair to get anywhere close to the working parts of such equipment. Most of all, never point the active end of a tool anywhere near your body or face.
- Always position yourself in a firmly grounded place, and be mindful of the unpredictable nature of an active piece of machinery. Make sure you’re at a safe distance from the working parts of a tool, in case abrupt changes in movement occur.
- Be sure to check the air source itself on a regular basis to ensure optimal performance and efficiency.
- The shutoff valve should always be visible and within reach when working with compressed air.
- Don’t allow grease or oil to deposit or linger on an air hose; grease can cause hoses to deteriorate.
- Don’t allow hoses or cords to hang along floors or aisles; doing so 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.
- 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.
- Pneumatic tools are capable of generating static energy, and must therefore be grounded whenever activated. This is especially true when in the presence of flammable or combustible elements, such as fuel or explosives.
Tips for Air Receivers, Distribution Lines, and Pressure Regulation Devices
- Inspection openings are essential on all air tanks and receivers. If a tank is under five square feet in volume, it should be equipped with pipe lug openings. If a tank’s diameter exceeds 36 inches, it should feature a manhole.
- For the purpose of interior inspections, intake and exhaust pipes should be detachable on smaller tanks.
- 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.
- Every air receiver should feature a pressure gauge, as well as a suitable ASME safety valve.
- To keep the working pressure from going over the recommended maximum, every receiver should contain a spring-loaded release valve.
- 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.
- To prevent the maximum working pressure on a given air line from being exceeded, use tags to mark the psi on each one.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Never run an air compressor at speeds that exceed the maximum level recommended in the accompanying manual of instructions.
Basic Maintenance of Compressed Air Equipment
- 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 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.
- Any part of an air compressor that is exposed, yet doesn’t carry currents, should be grounded.
- When lubricating compressor parts, don’t use low flash point oils; such lubricants could possibly ignite flames or cause a combustion due to the high temperatures at which compressors operate.
- Though it’s important to keep machine parts lubricated, avoid over-lubrication; too much can cause corrosion.
- Compressors that run on gas or diesel fuel should only be operated in outdoor work environments.
- 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.
- When it comes to cleaning carbon remnants from the various parts of an unplugged, deactivated air compressor, it’s safe to use a tower saturated with lye-based water, but you should never use anything flammable, such as kerosene.
Things to Remember When Using of Air Tools
No matter what tool is being used in a given project, it’s vital to wear protective gear for your ears and eyes at all times. 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.
Research compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that since 2004 there have been 125,000 cases of work-related hearing loss. 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.
Of all air compression safety tips, the most important is to use common sense when working in such an environment. Be mindful of anyone within your work space and make sure that no one is standing too close to an active, potentially dangerous piece of machinery. Wear protective gear at all times when operating tools and machinery. Perform regular maintenance on all the parts in the work area, and keep walking spaces free of obstructions.
Consider asking local rescue workers and firefighters to tour your work space, so they become familiar with your premises. This will give them a chance to familiarize themselves with the rooms, halls, entryways, and exits. Knowledge of these parameters can be extremely valuable in an emergency scenario.
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As one of the world’s leading sellers of air compression 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 from us receives support from our authorized partners, day or night, as well as industry-leading warranties on select compressor products.