OSHA – Governing the Use of Safety Air Guns
OSHA requirements governing the use of safety air guns are lengthy and confusing, however, one thing is certain; Compressed air used for cleaning purposes can be extremely dangerous if misused. Furthermore, horseplay in the workplace can lead to serious injury. That is why OSHA requirements pertaining to the safe use of compressed air for cleaning focus on the following parameters: output pressure, chip guarding and noise. These parameters and how they relate to worker safety are summarized below.
Factory air lines normally operate at pressures between 80 and 120 PSI. Most pneumatic tools, including airguns, require these high pressures to operate effectively and to do useful work. However, OSHA requires that in the event an air line is dead-ended (for example, if the tip of an air gun is blocked) the static pressure at the point of blockage be no more than 30 PSI. Alternatively, air guns may be designed to physically prevent blockage from occurring. Refer to 29CFR Part 1910.242 (b) Hand and portable powered tools and equipment, general and OSHA Instruction STD 1-13.1 (OSHA Program Directive #100-1.)
Whenever blowing off debris with compressed air in close quarters, workers are subject to “chip fly-back”. This is a term which refers to the tendency of loose particles or chips to fly back into the operator’s face, eyes or skin. Especially critical are operations which require close-in work. Thus OSHA requires that “effective chip guarding” be incorporated into the workplace through the use of personal protective equipment and/ or the safety air gun itself. Refer to 29CFR Part 1910.242(b) Hand and portable powered tools and equipment, general and OSHA Instruction STD 1-13.1 (OSHA Program Directive # 100-1.)
Excessive noise generated in the workplace can be harmful. To address this problem, OSHA has developed permissible daily noise exposure specifications. Since the use of conventional air guns may contribute to high levels of occupational noise, safety air guns with noise limiting features can be important components in moving towards compliance with OSHA requirements. Refer to 20CFR Part 1910.95(a) Occupational noise exposure.