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Safety:Maintain at all times

25 January 2013

Safety and maintenance are the themes for an article by Chris Dee, executive director of BCAS (British Compressed Air Society.However, he warns that if you have a sensitive disposition, it might be better not to read any fu

Safety and maintenance are the themes for an article by Chris Dee, executive director of BCAS (British Compressed Air Society.However, he warns that if you have a sensitive disposition, it might be better not to read any further

Have the blowguns that are on your site got safety features built in? Are the correct types of personal protective equipment (PPE) specified and worn? Have you had a colleague blow your clothing down? Perhaps you were lucky and the air jet did not go through your clothing and enter your body through the navel where it could inflate and possibly rupture your intestines.

It is possible that there is a need to use blowguns at general factory air pressure so that there is enough energy for the job to be done. There are a large number of safety type blow guns on the market as well as the old style non-safety blow gun. Have the safety type been inspected and serviced to ensure that they still function correctly and that none of the safety features have been overridden, for example holes that have been blocked. Someone having a wound or cut on the hand or arm could sustain severe injury if a blow gun operating at 6 bar or below strikes that part of the body when the compressed air could enter a blood vessel and inflate the arm.

Have the staff using non-safety pattern type been instructed in their use? The pressure on these should be limited to 2 bar and the user should be wearing PPE. Eye balls can be 'popped' out at a pressure of about 1 bar.

Consider the member of staff who may end up in hospital during a bout of 'horse-play' when compressed air enters the bowel, with or without safety features; remember that it only takes 0.25 bar to cause a rupture of that organ. The same pressure can rupture the lungs and intestines and a pressure of about 3 bar from a blow gun that is about 10cm from an ear drum can cause a brain haemorrhage.

If you are lucky you may not die.

The use of blow guns should be considered carefully, training in their use is essential, their continued correct use should be monitored and most importantly they should be maintained regularly in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions to ensure that the safety features still function.

It should be remembered that blowguns and their hoses would not normally be included within the written scheme of examination under the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations.What shall be included are any relevant pressure vessel and safety devices as well as any pipework which is considered to have defects that may give rise to danger. What must be considered when the written scheme is drawn up is the meaning of 'pipework', otherwise the examination could involve a vast array of compressed air equipment which may not require such intense investigation.

It could also be that the company that draws up and certifies the written scheme has a wider field of knowledge than the company that may be selected to perform the examination. The examiner may therefore have a narrow field of expertise.

The Pressure Systems Safety Regulations does have a useful regulation which not only benefits the owner/user but also the written scheme and the examination. That provision is the cornerstone of the regulations and is maintenance.

Maintenance can be the key to elements of the written scheme where a watching brief can be implemented without placing a burden on the examiner. The written scheme could make reference to records of maintenance which would be reviewed by the examiner of key pieces of equipment such as dryers. In this respect the records of maintenance could be called up where the dryer is placed before an air receiver which is then run 'dry' and so the inspection period for the air receiver could be 48 months or even longer depending on other operating characteristics. If the maintenance is not shown to be consistent then the period between examinations for the air receiver can justifiably be reduced.

Maintenance has long been included in various legislative provisions and it would be all too easy to keep hammering home the benefits.We all know that taking a positive view on maintenance has many business and safety benefits. Downtime costs money in lost production but how often is the quick fix that's applied at the time of breakdown the long term solution? Personnel who are injured due to poorly maintained equipment can also cost far more in claims than planned maintenance.

So are you still maintaining safety and continued productivity? If you would like to discuss any of the points covered in this article please contact Greg Bordiak, technical officer, British Compressed Air Society www.bcas.org.uk