Compressed air can cause serious injury to workers

28 Feb, 2015
By: Donald W Fohrman

Why is compressed air hazardous?

A compressed air source is built to direct a concentrated jet of air at a specific target. This stream of air is emitted at very high pressure. It is not a toy or a harmless cleaning device. If it is aimed at an inappropriate place, it can cause severe damage. Although many compressed air components are even more powerful than electrical tools and machines, workers do not always respect this technology or use it correctly.

Compressed air trauma

Every Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer is aware that compressed air trauma can involve major injuries. Some of the most common cases include eye injuries, eardrum ruptures, damage to the esophagus or lungs, skin trauma and harm to the body’s extremities. If compressed air makes its way under the skin through an open wound or sufficiently high pressure, it can be fatal. Even a small amount of air can enter the bloodstream and cause a stroke when it reaches the brain. A 23-year-old factory worker in Chicago recently died of an air embolism after a colleague fired a compressed air gun at him as a practical joke.

Safety limits on high pressure

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, compressed air used for cleaning in the workplace may never exceed a pressure level of 30 psi. OSHA regulations also forbid any skin contact with compressed air at levels higher than 30 psi. All machines using compressed air must be equipped with dust covers, protective cones or other screens to shield the operator from particles propelled by the stream of air.

Taking responsibility in the workplace

Workers who use compressed air can stay safer with the following guidelines:

  • Always use OSHA compliant air nozzles.
  • Never point a compressed air gun or hose at anyone.
  • Never use compressed air to clean dirt from the hands or body.
  • Keep air hoses off the floor and in good condition.

According to OSHA, workers can cut their risk of compressed air injury by 90 percent when they follow these guidelines.

Recovering from a compressed air trauma can be painful. Injured workers may find it helpful to speak with a Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer.

About The Author

Photo of Donald W Fohrman
After completing law school Donald became an assistant Attorney General for 7 years and was assigned to the Industrial Commission Division. During that time he spent evenings establishing his own firm. Donald became a founding partner of a large workers’ compensation/personal injury firm but decided to leave the firm in 1990 to start a smaller “boutique” firm with the belief that bigger isn’t always better!
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