Compressed Air Hazards: Fooling around with air compressors is no joke

Whether it’s a piece of equipment central to their job or part of their domestic DIY toolkit, thousands of people use an air compressor for tasks such as inflating tyres, using air tools, cleaning or sandblasting without realising the potentially harmful nature of compressed air. Stories occasionally make the news in which someone such as a garage attendant thought it would be funny to blast a colleague with compressed air from the tyre inflator, only to seriously injure their intended victim. The truth is that compressed air can be lethal and should be treated with the same care and respect with which you’d treat electricity. If you’ve ever been tempted to use your air compressor for a prank or a bit of fun, the following facts will hopefully dissuade you. From a distance of 10 centimetres, a blast of compressed air at 40 PSI (pounds per square inch of pressure) has the power to rupture an eardrum. Aimed towards the eyes it will cause blindness and aimed into the mouth has the potential to rupture lungs or intestines. A direct blast of compressed air at just 4 PSI is believed to be capable of rupturing the bowel. Handled properly, of course, compressed air is completely safe. Protective clothing however – and especially eyewear – is essential if you are using an air compressor in a workshop or garage environment. Inadvertently blasting a pile of metal shaving or filings with compressed air at 40 PSI can result in fragments travelling at speeds over 70 miles per hour. Whatever you might use an air compressor for, never fool around with it: somebody could be seriously hurt and that ‘somebody’ might be you.

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