Compressed Air Risk Assessment

Compressed air is common place in commercial and institutional settings and is a vital contributor to productivity in the manufacturing and industrial landscape. Compressed air is as essential to many process operations as electrical energy - however the risks associated with compressed air must be professionally assessed because compressed air in the workplace can pose a threat of serious or even fatal consequences.

Putting safety first - the risks associated with compressed air use

From the compressed air user perspective, poorly designed and installed equipment, lack of hazard awareness, neglect of regulations and disregard of safety procedures all contribute to a potential risk to people, productivity and profit. To mitigate unnecessary risk in the workplace a combination of correct installation, appropriate safety training, regular planned maintenance and monitoring schedules will ensure equipment is in the optimum operational condition and mitigate unnecessary risk.

How dangerous is compressed air?

On the whole, the reason compressed air is used within the workplace is because its a safer source of energy. However direct contact with compressed air can lead to serious medical conditions. The accidental release of high pressure air, resulting from equipment failure, or the use of air supply equipment in the wrong, untrained or unaware hands, can have potentially fatal consequences. People using compressed air need to be informed of the dangers.

Did you know compressed air could do this?

  • As little as 1 bar(g) of compressed air pressure can blow an eye out of its socket.
  • Compressed air can also enter the bloodstream through the skin and, if it makes its way to blood vessels and the heart, it can create symptoms similar to a heart attack. An air pocket reaching the brain can lead to a stroke or prove fatal.
  • If compressed air is accidentally blown into the mouth it can rupture the lungs, stomach, and intestines.
  • Even at a pressure as low as 0.25 bar(g), air entering the navel, even through a layer of clothing, can also inflate and rupture the intestines.
  • A 3 bar(g) air stream in the vicinity of the eardrum can cause a brain haemorrhage.

Compressed air poses three distinct inherent risks

1) Air pressure - High pressure equals high risk, what are you operating at?

2) Airborne particulate matter - How clean is your air?

3) Noise - Is your compressed air system contributing to workplace noise?

Creating your compressed air risk assessment

It is a given that compressors and associated equipment should be installed and maintained correctly to ensure safe operation. System energy audits play a major role in identifying health and safety risks from the operation of below-standard installations. Incorrectly specified equipment, air leaks, poorly sized and installed pipework with long runs, excessive bends and fittings can all pose a health and safety risk. To help identify these potential hazards Cambs Compressors provide a FREE individual compressed air system survey, which audits and provides recommendations so you can make a fully informed risk assessment on your compressed air system.

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