6. Compressed Air Precautions

Compressed air can be quite handy, but it can be dangerous if not used properly. Most shop air is under high pressures often exceeding 100 p.s.i. A blast of air under only 40 p.s.i from four inches away can rupture an eardrum or cause a brain hemorrhage. As little as 12 p.s.i. can “pop” an eyeball from its socket. Air can enter the navel, even through a layer of clothing, and inflate and rupture the intestines. And there are reports that compressed air under 80 p.s.i. struck a small hand wound and inflated the arm, causing shooting pains from the fingers to the shoulder. Compressed air can cause bubbles of air in the blood stream. One authority estimates that as little as 4 p.s.i. can rupture the bowel. Directed at the mouth, it can rupture the lungs and intestines. It can be dangerous to use compressed air to blow dust or dirt off clothing or body parts. Horseplay is never funny when it causes an accident, and fooling around with compressed air can be lethal.

The following guidelines can help reduce the risk of injury when using compressed air:


  • Examine all hoses, connections, and equipment to see that they are in good condition before turning the pressure on.
  • Never point an air hose nozzle at any part of your body or at any other person. No horseplay with the air hose.
  • Never kink the hose to stop the air flow – turn it off at the control valve.
  • When using compressed air for cleaning, make sure the pressure is no higher than 30 p.s.i.
  • Always wear eye protection when using compressed air.
  • Before using compressed air, make sure that dirt will not be blown onto other workers in the area. Only the user should be in the vicinity.
  • Turn off the valve on both the tools and the air line when the job is finished.
  • Remember, failure to follow safety procedures properly or to pay attention to workplace safety could result in injury to you or your fellow workers.

Never look into the business end of a compressed air device or apparatus and never point it at any part of the body.

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