When compared to other pieces of equipment on a working jobsite, an air compressor hardly seems hazardous. How can air be dangerous?
"Think of compressed air as stored energy," says Tom Grau, product-line R&D department manager with MMD Equipment. "Consider it takes almost nine cubic feet of air to make one cubic foot of compressed air, and you get some idea of the energy that is stored, not only in the air compressor's tank but also in the hose connected to the tools you're operating.
"This energy did not get compressed easily," he continues. "For a 185-cfm machine, it takes over 50 hp at 3,000 rpm to confine that energy. Therefore, the sudden, uncontrolled release of this energy could have devastating results."
This is why your customers need to take note and pay attention to the industry's safety rules for compressed air. But first, before the compressor even leaves your rental yard, there are some items you need to check.
According to Harold Wagner, national sales manager with Kaeser Compressors, the compressor, air hose and air tools need to be inspected thoroughly. Here are some items that need to be checked:
- Check for the correct tire pressure and excessive tread wear; improperly inflated tires can affect road handling, damage the tire and make transportation dangerous.
- Ensure that shutdown devices and pressure and temperature gauges are working.
- Check that all lights are working properly.
- Use an air hose rated for the maximum compressor pressure and flow.
- Do not allow your hoses to be run over by vehicles or stored improperly; cracks or weak spots are not only wasteful, but also dangerous to the operator.
- Make sure that the hose and compressor discharge fittings match; always use the safety pin to prevent the fittings from disconnecting — if a pressurized air hose breaks loose, "fish tailing" could injure workers and damage equipment.
- Depressurize the hose prior to disconnecting.
- Inspect all air tools to ensure proper operation; make sure all components are tight and that no parts are missing or damaged.
- Consult your tool steel catalog for proper tool steel selection and application.
- Check air pressure to ensure proper working pressure of the tool.
- Always purchase the best air tool lubricant available to prolong equipment and tool steel life.
In addition to the above items, Grau with MMD points out that the customer's tow vehicle needs to meet certain criteria and the compressor needs to be hooked up properly to the tow vehicle.
- Confirm that the tow vehicle is of sufficient size to be able to stop the compressor in an emergency or "hard-brake" situation.
- Confirm that the tow vehicle's hitch is at the correct height so the compressor is towed as close to level as possible.
- Confirm that the safety chains are properly crossed and connected; make sure they're not too long to avoid being damaged by dragging on the road.
- Confirm that the electrical connections are properly matched and made — especially if the compressor has electric brakes.
The type of instructions you give your customers can be the difference between a safe, productive rental and a devastating one. Wagner with Kaeser says a mini-instruction course and safety pamphlet should be given to all customers. "Review all precautions with regular customers, too," he says.
Marc James with Ingersoll Rand says there are several points rental businesses should touch on in order for customers to avoid common compressor danger zones.
"Before disconnecting a hose from the tool or the compressor, make sure all the pressure has been released," he says.
Another pitfall is hose whip, which can occur when a hose is cut or torn. The hose turns into an uncontrolled whip. This can be prevented by using a whip-check cable [also known as break-away protection], such as a short length of cable or chain attached to the tool and hose." (Continued on page 34)