Can Compressed Air Cause Injuries?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes! Compressed air causes severe and sometimes fatal injuries when people point nozzles at their body or clothing, yet workers use it to remove dust from their clothes or even shoot air at their coworkers in horseplay. However, no one should use compressed air to clean clothing, clothes or work surfaces, and any intentional or carelessly-inflicted injuries must meet with immediate discipline. Here are four injuries caused by compressed air and how to avoid them in your Wisconsin shop:

  • Organ rupture: Misuse of compressed air can cause ruptures in the lungs, stomach and intestines. These injuries result when someone blows compressed air into their mouth or through the navel while using air to clean clothes. Even if a worker wears heavy garments or an apron, they can still sustain internal injuries.
  • Blood poisoning: Compressed air can break the skin. Besides having to deal with a cut, the injury also adds contaminants straight into the bloodstream. The result is a severe illness and often death. Workers can also sustain blood poisoning if air enters through any bodily cavity.
  • Embolism: Besides poisoning, compressed air can create an air bubble in the bloodstream. The air bubble causes an embolism, which is a medically dangerous condition that blocks the blood vessel. As it moves to the brain and extremities, it risks coma, paralysis and death. It depends on where the embolism moves and when it ruptures. Unfortunately, it only takes a small amount of compressed air to create this condition.
  • Eye and brain injuries: It does not take much to blow an eyeball out of its socket—12 pounds of compressed air pressure is enough. Even if it does not blow out an eye, it will damage it beyond repair. If air damages the eyes, it can also create air pockets that cause strokes if they reach the brain. Air pockets that move into the chest instead of the brain may cause a heart attack. Either injury can result in death or, at the very least, substantial disability.

Even safety nozzles that keep air compressed below 31 psi can injure workers. You can avoid these injuries by prohibiting the use of air for cleaning clothes, skin and work surfaces. Do not allow workers to turn air compressors on themselves or any of their coworkers. Purchase a cleaning station or booth if needed in your industry.

Prohibit using compressed air for blowing off dust or cooling off after work. If workers indulge in “practical jokes” that spray air directly at other people, discipline them immediately. Post these rules where all workers can see them, so disciplinary actions hold up in union or worker’s compensation proceedings.

Can compressed air cause injuries? Yes, it can, but there are appropriate applications for it, too. Wenniger Compressor Co. is a premier supplier of oil-flooded, oil-free, air-cooled and water-cooled compressors in Wisconsin. Reach out to us today to learn more about these tools’ advantages and how to avoid injuries caused by compressed air.

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