Compressed air is widely used in both domestic and commercial situations. If used incorrectly, compressed air systems have the potential to cause serious and permanent injuries.

How are workers and others harmed?

Compressed air can cause serious injuries if used incorrectly.

When used for removing dust from surfaces, compressed air will cause the dusts to become airborne, where they become a risk to the health of workers when they are breathed in.

With regard to vehicles, if pressure gauges are displaying incorrect information, a customer’s tires may be overfilled potentially leading to an accident later on.

Compressed air can break through skin and cause minor injuries, but if the air enters into the bloodstream, and travels to the brain or heart, stroke or heart attack symptoms can occur.

Blowing air from a compressed air system into your mouth can cause ruptures in the lungs or stomach. 

What you can do

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:  

  • Make sure that the air system is located within sight of workers to ensure constant supervision.
  • Clearly display information on the use of the air system.
  • Ensure workers are trained in the safe use of equipment.
  • Ensure equipment is well maintained and pressure gauges are accurate.
  • Make sure all equipment is securely locked away at the end of the work day.
  • Use wet wiping or vacuums to remove dusts from surfaces.

You need to select the most effective controls that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Get your workers involved

  • Ensure your workers know how to make suggestions, ask questions, or raise concerns.
  • Always ask your workers for input on identifying health and safety risks and how to eliminate or minimise them. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good decisions when they have been involved in the conversation. Your workers (including contractors and temps) are the eyes and ears of your business. They can help spot issues, and suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.
  • Always train your workers on what the key risks are and how to keep healthy and safe. 

Find out more about getting your workers involved

Where to go for more information 

Health and Safety Executive UK | Compressed air(external link)