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Compressed Air Use

Compressed Air Use

Compressed air should be a concern in every manufacturing or processing facility. Commonly referred to as the “fourth utility”, compressed air is very common as a resource within manufacturing, mining and processing environments.

Employees or contractors in every industrial setting are exposed to compressed air’s effects regularly and it should be handled with responsibility and care. Beyond safety concerns, compressed air should be used as efficiently as possible by using engineered products which optimize compressed air performance and save money.

The primary dangers from compressed air come from high pressure and noise exposure. (Read More) Personnel being exposed to compressed air which exits an open-line or non-safety nozzle at a higher pressure than 30 PSIG risk the air entering the bloodstream and causing an air embolism, a serious health risk.

Improper use of compressed air commonly exceeds OSHA’s noise exposure standards and causes noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). The CDC reports NIHL is one of the most common occupational diseases and the second most self-reported occupational illness or injury. According to the National Association of Manufacturing there are 12.3 million people working in the manufacturing sector, which accounts for approximately 9% of the U.S. workforce. The bureau of Labor Statistics states occupational hearing loss is the most commonly recorded occupational illness in manufacturing, accounting for 1 in 9 recordable illnesses. More than 72% of these occur among workers in manufacturing.

Compressed air use is also regulated. In the U.S., OSHA has two important standards relevant to compressed air. Standard CFR 1910.242(b) is specific to compressed air use for cleaning and states – “Compressed air shall not be used for cleaning purposes except where reduced to less than 30psi and then only with effective chip guarding and personal protective equipment”. OSHA’s own interpretation goes on to state “the downstream pressure of the air at the nozzle (nozzle pressure) or opening of a gun, pipe, cleaning lance, etc., used for cleaning purposes will remain at a pressure level below 30psi for all static conditions. The requirements for dynamic flow are such that in the case when blockage of the air exit (dead-ending) occurs a static pressure at the main orifice shall not exceed 30psi”.
And because compressed air can be loud and result in hearing loss when it is used through poor nozzles, open tubes and pipe, or home-made blow-offs, their noise exposure standard is important. This standard 29 CFR 1910.95(a) outlines the allowable time a person can be exposed to a specific decibel level as follows:

Limiting pressure and noise is effectively done by using products which are purposefully designed to meet these strict OSHA safety standards. There are many different options for using compressed air within a machine or out on the plant floor but many of them do not take these two important OSHA standards into account. Engineered compressed air products, made for end-use compressed air applications, should possess the ability to prevent blockage of the compressed air orifice and keep noise below allowable thresholds.  

Intelligent use of compressed air also results in dollar savings. Engineered compressed air products increase safety and save money.

For Example:

This specific example, from a bakery, used a home-made compressed air nozzle to de-pan rolls     from their baking pans.

They made their own nozzle by capping off a 3/8” pipe and drilling a 9/64” hole in the cap.     It used 25.4 SCFM at 80 PSIG. An engineered air nozzle replaced the homemade solution and the     result was 17 SCFM at 80 PSIG, a clear savings of 8.4 SCFM. There were ten nozzles used for     removing rolls from the pans and it was a two shift per day operation.     

Savings = 8.4 SCFM per nozzle (ten total)
8.4 x 10 = 84 SCFM total
Two Shifts per day = 960 minutes
250 working days per year = 240,000 minutes
Yearly Air Savings = 20,160,000 ft³ saved    

Using the average compressed air cost of $0.25/1000 ft³ we can further quantify the savings.

20,160,000 ft³/1000 = 20,160
20,160 x $0.25 = $5,040.00 total savings per year ($20.16/working day)

The total investment for the engineered compressed air nozzles (EXAIR Model 1100) was     $370.00, for a simple ROI of 19 working days!

EXAIR products excel at using compressed air safely and efficiently for applications such as blowoff, cleaning, drying, cooling, ventilating, circulating, part ejection, part manipulation and environmental separation. Learn more at