Because pneumatic tools are usually lighter and smaller than electric- and gas-powered devices, we might think these tools are safer to operate than other types of tools are.
But that’s not the case. In fact, the air used to power pneumatic devices such as nailers, staple guns, buffers, grinders, rivet guns, sanders and wrenches can present several unique hazards.
For instance, powerful air pressure can shoot objects across a room at high velocity. Whipping air hoses can also cause severe injuries.
That’s why it’s important to prepare yourself for some of the unusual risks posed by pneumatic tools.
One of the best ways to reduce the chances of an injury from a pneumatic tool is to examine the tool and the compressed air system before each use. Make sure the air supplied by the compressor doesn’t exceed the manufacturer’s rating for the tool.
Keep the compressor tank near the work area, with the shutoff valve visible and within reach. In order to prevent overheating, don’t place objects that could impede airflow against the compressor. Dust, moisture and corrosive fumes can damage a tool, so an in-line filter, regulator and lubricator could help increase the life of the tool.
Also pay attention to air hoses, which can become a severe hazard should they disconnect and start whipping around. Position hoses away from heat, oil and sharp edges. Regularly check hoses for cuts, bulges and abrasions. Defective hoses should be tagged and removed from service right away.
Before connecting a pneumatic tool, blow out the airline by holding the hose firmly and blowing away from yourself and others. Doing so will help ensure there’s no debris in the hose.
Turn off air pressure to the hose when the tool isn’t being used. And don’t carry a tool by its hose.
Get in the habit of disconnecting the tool when you’re not using it, before servicing it, when you’re clearing jams, and when you’re changing accessories such as bits and cutters.
(What safety gear should be worn while operating a pneumatic tool?)
Because compressed air can cause particles to fly in your face, put on safety goggles or safety glasses with side shields before using a pneumatic tool.
Keep in mind that compressed air is usually cold, so you should wear safety gloves while operating a pneumatic tool in order to prevent a cold-related injury. If you’ll be working with a tool that doesn’t have a sound muffler, use hearing protection to reduce noise levels.
Thanks for your attention. And remember, let’s stay safe out there!
(From the Oct. 17, 2022, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)