Compressed air is both an energy source (Energy Air) and part of a process (Active Air). It is used in many industries, such as in productions that require the storage and transmission of energy to perform mechanical work. Energy Air, for instance, is used to cool the components of equipment during production. It is also used to power production equipment that needs air to work, such as the air-operated lathe machines and pressure cleaners. On the other hand, Active Air is used as part of specific processes, such as maintaining the air quality of a particular area. Typically, Active Air is used in the chemical, pharmaceutical, aeration and agitation, food and beverage, medical breathing air, and semiconductor and electronics industries.
The Dangers of Compressed Air
Because of its many uses, compressed air has been considered a crucial energy source. Its importance can be compared to that of water, electricity, and gas. Misuse of compressed air, though, can be extremely dangerous. It can lead to serious injuries or even death. Common types of injuries that can result from widespread misuse of compressed air include eye injuries, ruptured eardrums, ruptured organs, embolism, and dislodged eyeballs. It can also result in permanent hearing loss.
Regulations on Compressed Air Use
Due to the dangers associated with the use of compressed air, specific regulations have been passed to ensure the safety of people. General provisions state that the employer should be represented by at least one person who is knowledgeable about the different provisions covering the laws and regulations on the use and safety of compressed air. This person shall be responsible for making sure that the company complies with all the requirements set by the law.
The law also requires that all employees be familiar with the rules and regulations surrounding compressed air and its usage. Also, there should always be a physician present at the site while work is in progress. The physician should be familiar and knowledgeable in the medical aspects and treatment of any illness that result from decompression.
General Safety Requirements
Many industries use industrial air compressor filters to make sure that no contaminants can enter the air compressors. The contaminants can compromise the functionality of the critical system components, such as the valves and cylinders, if they are not filtered out.
Overall, these filters protect the components from immature wear and tear, reduce downtime, and lower energy costs. The use of these filters also helps prevent sudden incidents caused by premature wear in the equipment. Apart from using industry-grade filters to improve safety in the workplace, the following work practices are also encouraged to ensure the safety of workers in work areas that use compressed air equipment:
- All employees should wear their appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when using any pneumatic tool and equipment. These include safety glasses or goggles, hearing protection aids, steel-toed shoes, and face shields.
- Employees should ensure that all connections and couplings are secure. They should also make sure that the hose does not whip uncontrollably when pressure is applied.
- No compressed air equipment should be used for the transfer of flammable liquids.
- The instructions and recommendations of the manufacturer should be strictly followed when using the compressed air equipment, portable or not. Regular servicing and maintenance should also be strictly followed, especially for the following components: safety devices, air-line particulate filters, drain lines, condenser coils, air filters, and many more.
- Use only tanks and valves assembled and fitted according to the instructions given in the A.S.M.E Boiler and Pressure Boiler Code, Section VIII Edition 1968.
- All air receivers should be outfitted with a pressure gauge, safety release valve, and a drain valve, which should be found at the bottom of the receiver.
- No compressed air equipment should be used to eliminate debris from a person’s clothing or skin.
- No receivers or tanks should be modified by anyone who is not authorized to perform such a task.
- There should be a frequent inspection of air lines to make sure that they are not defective. Defective pieces of equipment should be immediately replaced or repaired.
- Air lines should only use standard fittings.
- Check all hoses and make sure they are securely connected to pipeline outlines before use.
- Air hoses should never be bent or kinked when used by operators.
- Make sure to thaw frozen valves first before operating the compressor.
These are just some of the safety requirements required when using compressed air equipment. The dangers that come with compressors can be fatal, so employees should always follow whatever regulations are set in their workplaces. Strictly following protocols can help prevent disasters from occurring.