Safe Operating Procedures for Compressed Air Systems

Hand on the oxygen cylinder valve

In the world of manufacturing, air compressors play a far more vital role in day-to-day proceedings than most people realize.

But at the same time, it’s also one of the more dangerous pieces of equipment on a shop floor – which is why employees should proceed with extreme caution during their operation. Not only can an air compressor that isn’t properly used or maintained overheat and cause burns, but if an air hose is allowed to break it can cause significant injury. When left unchecked, the level of pressure in the air can easily rupture the skin – creating an incredibly dangerous working environment for all involved.

Having said that, safe operating procedures for compressed air systems aren’t necessarily inherently difficult. They do, however, require all operators and organizational leaders to keep a number of crucial things in mind.

Industrial Air Compressor Safety: An Overview

By far, one of the most important operating procedures compressed air systems best practices to follow involves making sure that the nozzle of the device is always pointed away from the body when in use. Under no circumstances should someone engage the trigger if it is pointed directly at them or, more importantly, within the direct vicinity of someone else.

Along the same lines, it’s also critical to make sure that all hair and especially loose clothing are properly tucked away and are kept away from the air compressor nozzle at all times. Both of these things run the risk of causing serious injuries moving forward.

All throughout the duration of an air compressor’s use, the operator should take care to stay within arm’s length of the shutoff valve. This is key because if anything goes wrong, they’ll need to be in a position to act as quickly as humanly possible. The shutoff valve is the component that cuts off the air supply, which is why they should never venture too far from this essential component.

It’s also essential to consider the fact that safe operating procedures need to be followed during all aspects of interacting with compressed air systems – not just during normal operation. When maintaining an air compressor, you need to take care to follow the recommended best practices of the original equipment manufacturer. No two compressed air systems are created in quite the same way, so they will always be the default authority in terms of what you can do during routine maintenance – and more importantly, what you can’t.

There are, of course, certain techniques that you should follow to guarantee the safe operation of your device. Case in point: if you don’t have an employee or service professional available that has specific training with the air compressor that you’re using, they should never attempt to service any of the pressure-regulating equipment. In the vast majority of all situations, these components are installed in a way that they cannot be removed. At best, you’ll damage your air compressor to the point where the components are inoperable.

Care should also always be taken to perform a visual inspection prior to any use of the air compressor in question. As you do so, be mindful to shut off the source of the air and cautiously bleed the air pressure out of the hose. If you’re using an oil-powered air compressor, you need to make sure that you’re only changing the fuel source once the device has been off for an extended period of time and has had a chance to cool down. Obviously, this isn’t something you’ll have to worry about if you’re using an oil-free option.

Finally, you’ll want to take care to be proactive about air tanks that rust over time. This is more common than people realize, as air tanks are commonly exposed to A) high humidity and B) higher than average condensation. Therefore, you need to be mindful to catch a small problem now before it has a chance to become a much bigger one down the road.

Generally speaking, most air tanks will start to show signs of rust near the bottom – which is where the condensation has a tendency to collect. If left unchecked, that condensation will begin to eat away at the metal – leaving it thinner in certain areas. Those areas will not handle the pressure of the air compressor as well under normal operation, which increases the chances that something dangerous might happen. If you see signs of rust on your air tank you should replace it immediately – thus guaranteeing the safe operation of the air compressor for all.

If you’d like to learn more about the best practices of safely operating compressed air systems in an industrial environment, or if you’d just like to discuss your own needs with someone in a bit more detail, please don’t delay – contact JHFoster today.