Compressors generate high air pressures, which can cause injury or death if improperly handled. As such, avoid all direct physical contact with pressurized air.
"Don't point compressed air lines at people for any reason," warns Chartters. "Don't 'dust' or 'clean' yourself off."
Make sure all hose connections are secure, and discharge the compressor before removing covers, fill plugs or accessories. "Also ensure that the air hose is rated for the maximum compressor pressure and flow," says Chartters.
Don't adjust safety, blow-off or control valves without referring to the operator's manual. "Despite safety features such as fan and belt guards, only trained technicians should adjust compressor components," Chartters states. "Improper adjustments can cause 'air explosions' from the safety valve, which can startle, and perhaps injure, even experienced operators."
Air hoses connected to the discharge valve of an operating air compressor can "fishtail" if a hose breaks loose, or if it isn't connected to a tool. Use a whip hose for tethering, and an OSHA-approved safety flow choke valve at each hose connection to help prevent hose lashing. Also make sure the hose and compressor discharge fittings match.
When selecting a compressor, look for units with warning alarms and automatic shutoffs that prevent damage to internal components. For example, some are designed to shut down if temperatures are too high, or sound audible alarms to alert workers in the area when a unit is turned on. Many units also have pressure regulators that automatically vent when the pressure exceeds a preset level.
Following are some additional safety precautions for generator use:
Ensure adequate ventilation. Discharged air can contain carbon monoxide, vaporized oil and other pollutants, so avoid breathing it in. Never run a compressor inside a building without proper ventilation.
Conduct a visual inspection. The battery cables should be disconnected prior to inspection or service. Then check the machine and its accessories for any obvious signs of wear or damage.
Take special care to ensure hoses won't be run over by vehicles, or are being stored improperly. "Cracks or weak spots are not only wasteful, but dangerous to the operator," says Chartters.
If any decals are lost or worn, replace them. "We offer free safety decals for all of our IR compressor products, air compressors, generators, light towers and compaction equipment," notes Russ Warner, Doosan Infracore Portable Power.
Wear proper safety gear. Air compressors operate at high noise levels, especially with the doors open. Wear proper hearing protection if the doors are open, or if the air discharge valve is operating. Also wear safety goggles, gloves, safety shoes, face masks, etc., as required by OSHA standards.