Compressed air tools are a must in many shops since the air gives the tools the extra power necessary to drive in a nail or tighten a bolt. It's not uncommon to have multiple people working in the same tool section, especially in small manufacturing shops where separate stations for each employee aren't possible. For these smaller shops, it's vital that every employ understands the basic safety rules for working in the compressed air stations, whether it is a normal part of their job duties or not.
Rule #1: Safety Protocols Must Be Followed at All Times
Make sure each station is equipped with ear and eye protection and require that any employee entering this station for any reason when the compressor is in operation must wear the proper safety equipment. You may also want to instigate protocol that doesn't allow employees to walk into the section when another employ is operating the compressor to power tools, since reduced hearing could lead to an accident – compressed air should never be aimed at a person or the skin. This protocol isn't usually necessary if the compressor is being used as a simple cleaning tool.
Rule #4: Insist on Inspections
It's a good idea to teach inspection protocol to all employees, even if they are not necessarily assigned to the compressor stations. This ensures there is always someone nearby to perform a safety inspection when necessary. Inspections are relatively simple:
Make sure all hoses and fittings are tight and undamaged.
Inspect the hose for any obvious signs of damage, such as fraying or permanent crimping.
Check the connectors at the end of the hoses and make sure they are in good working condition.
Make sure all safety valves move easily and then are set to the lock position before operation.
That any bleed-off hoses are in good repair – these are vital if there is a main hose failure so that the excess pressure can escape properly.
Rule #3: Mind the Hose
The hoses on the air compressor only deliver air at the proper pressure when they are in good working condition. Allowing a bend or crimp in the hose reduces pressure at the delivery point, but may allow too much pressure to build up behind the crimp. This can result in a leak and damage to the hose or compressor unit. If the hose is damaged, employees must turn off the compressor and bleed out the air remaining in the hose before unclamping and replacing it.
Rule #4: Keep the Repair Bin Stocked
It's vital that the proper-sized clamps and hose fittings are used on every part of the compressor. Failure to do so can lead to leaks and reduced pressure, and it can also put a strain on the compressor motor which can burn out the equipment. Keep a basic repair kit near the compressor at all times, along with an illustrated chart to indicate which fitting to use on each part of the hose. This ensures that all staff members are aware of the proper replacement procedure, and it minimizes the chances of the wrong clamp being used when someone is in a hurry.
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