Workshops, garages and other industrial sites are rife with potential health and safety hazards, and of course there is a legal requirement for the employer to ensure that these are minimised.
The risks posed by air compressors are often overlooked when assessing potential hazards, so here are our top safety guidelines for using these versatile and handy pieces of equipment.
If your air compressor is powered electrically it should be fine to use it indoors. With any other form of power, though – such as gas, petrol or diesel – the compressor must only be used outside. This is because these fuels produce fumes that can be extremely detrimental to health and they will quickly build up indoors to cause breathing difficulties, unconsciousness and even death.
There are two risks that can be mitigated by using simple personal protective equipment (we’re talking gloves and goggles here). The risks come from the air jet itself – which can blind if directed into the eye or cause friction burns on the skin; and from small debris which, when thrust into the atmosphere at relatively high speed, can cause impact injuries, cuts and eye damage. For prolonged use or in particularly confined spaces, you should also think about ear protection to not cause long-term hearing damage.
If you use an air compressor a lot, then you might want to consider a reel for the air hose. These can be installed on your wall or ceiling and prevent the air hose from trailing on the floor to become a trip hazard. Other benefits: a tidy and organised workspace, a longer life for your hose (as it is not being dragged on the floor or badly stored) and a convenient, easy way to both store and access your hose.
Check it over
Every time you use your air compressor you should check it over. Make sure your air hose is intact with no leaks or kinks, and that connections are in equally good condition. For fuel-powered units, also check the fuel tank and lines, and make sure there are no leaks or spills. Check it, too, for any accumulated dirt or the beginnings of rust, to make sure the unit can operate optimally without any blockages or damages becoming problematic.
Don’t use it for cleaning
If you can avoid it, you should not really use your air compressor for general cleaning purposes. It can be tempting to quickly clean down a workbench covered in sawdust for example, by blasting it with the compressor; but you will more than likely end up filling the air with tiny dust and wood particles that will cause eye damage and breathing issues.
Turn it off
Any time you are conducting cleaning or maintenance, or connecting up new tools or lines, refilling fuel or other tasks, make sure the compressor is switched off and cooled down. This includes when you are making any adjustments to your connected hand tools or other attachments.
Alicia Saville did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health and well-being.