Compressed Air Tank Safety

Compressed air is useful, but can be dangerous.

Compressed air is used to power pneumatic tools. It is a very useful technology for sanders, nailers and other applications, but the presence of compressed air in a work environment presents certain safety concerns that are not present in other workplaces. Injury can result as a result of projectiles fired by air guns, broken hoses that are whipped around by escaping air, or, in a worst-case scenario, an exploding air tank.

Tools

Air tools, like weapons, should be treated as loaded at all times. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something powered by air couldn’t be dangerous. A nail, staple or rivet accidentally fired under high pressure could easily blind or even kill a person. Air nailers and staplers should always have working safeties on them, which prevent them from firing unless they are pressed against a surface. All air tools should be disconnected when not in use and kept out of the reach of children.

Hoses

Air hoses should be inspected regularly for wear, leaks or corrosion. Air hoses must be rated at minimum to a pressure equal to the compressor to which they are connected. If you connect a 120 psi compressor to a hose that is only rated to a 100 psi, you run the risk of the hose exploding, causing a hazard to yourself and other workers.

Compressors

Compressors should be drained of air at night or whenever they will not be used for a period of time. They should be oiled according to manufacturer instructions, maintained regularly, and kept out of rain or extreme cold. Situating a compressor in a separate room from where most work is done will increase safety and also relieve workers of the sometimes annoying levels of noise made by air compressors.

Work Environment

Never lay air hoses across walkways in a workshop. This is a tripping hazard. Run permanent air connections along the ceiling that drop down to work stations. Use a compressor that is appropriately sized for the number of people who may be using it at one time. All employees should be trained in the proper use of air tools, as well as in the functioning and maintenance of the air compressor.

Personal Safety

Safety glasses should be worn when using air tools. A nail that is fired at high speed into a piece of wood, if it meets another nail or an obstruction, has the potential of ricocheting back, possibly hitting the operator in the face. Compressed air should not be used for cleaning dirt or dust from clothing or skin, particularly around the ears. A blast of compressed air into an ear is capable of rupturing the eardrum.