Compressed Air Hose Safety – Risks and best Practices Guide!

by Mark Wheatley

March 25, 2018

Compressed air hose safety

Why is air hose safety so important?

"Before he realized what had happened, his arm had blown up as big as a grapefruit and he had shooting pain from fingertips to shoulders".

Compressed air is a very useful thing in the work place, however it can be dangerous and must be used in a safe manner. The following sections are for guidance when using compressed air and tools and user general care advise.

General Use

  • Keep air hose off the floor where possible as it is a trip hazard and subject to damage by trucks, doors, and dropped tools.
  • At KVF during recent audits we have found unused air hoses laying across the floor, and some being attached to a self-retracting reel.
  • Prevent sharp objects from rubbing against the hose as much as possible by placing protectors between object and hose or where possible rerouting.
  • Be especially careful if the hose gets wedged in a corner or hung around a machine. Always go to the point where the hose is stuck and guide it clear. Don’t pull on the hose trying to free it and cause damage and premature failure.
Compressed Air Hose Safety

Prior to use here are some quick tips

  • Ensure the quick-connect is properly seated and there is no apparent damage to the hose or fittings. Weak points may swell like a balloon and burst, throwing pieces of hose in every direction. This may also cause the hose to thrash about dangerously.
  • If your area doesn’t have a self-retracting reel; always coil the hose without kinks and hang it over a broad support after use, not over a hook, nail, or angle iron, when not in use as this will cause damage and end in a failing line under pressure, as is quite often seen in work environments causing harm to user and others in the immediate work area.

When using it to blow dust and debris:

  • Ensure LEV is used to capture dust at source to reduce spread of dust in the work area; increasing health risk to others in the work area through dust spread and to decrease fire and explosive risk from air born dust caused by this practice.
  • Ensure you are wearing goggles or a face shield to protect your face and eyes. Air more than 30 lbs can blow an eye from its socket and/or rupture an eardrum.
  • Always utilize a OSHA approved air nozzle that reduces from high 90 lb air down to a safe level for such use.
  • NEVER aim the hose at yourself or someone else.
  • Never use compressed air to clean off your body as air pressure against the skin may penetrate deeply to cause internal haemorrhage and intense pain.

Compressed Air Injury

This is an excerpt from a recent report

  • A machine operator in a woodworking plant covered with sawdust decided to clean himself off with compressed air. He held the nozzle 12” from the palm of his left hand. When he opened the nozzle the air, under 80 pounds of pressure, struck and entered his hand.
  • Before he realized what had happened, his arm had blown up as big as a grapefruit and he had shooting pain from fingertips to shoulders. He had excruciating pain in his head and a feeling that the top of his head was about to be blown off. This feeling was so real and the pain so intense that when help arrived, he was actually trying to hold the top of his head in place.
  • The surgeon said it might have been worse. Had the air forced its way into the blood stream, it would have made its way to the very small blood vessels of the brain causing a clot, which would have burst the vessels and caused death.
  • Never ever utilize an air hose to clean dust or debris off yourself or anyone else in any circumstance.

Compressed Air Safety

Compressed air is often misjudged in the work place and not recognized as a hazard because people often think of air as harmless.

The Facts

Did you know that…

  • Air forced into body tissues through the skin can cause an air embolism (air bubbles in the blood stream) which can be fatal if it reaches the heart, lungs, or brain.
  • Inflation injuries of the intestine can be caused by air being directed at private body areas. A worker in the U.K. died of injuries sustained through horseplay with a compressed air hose. This act of horseplay can be deadly!
  • Air blown into the mouth at only 5 PSI can rupture the oesophagus or the lungs.
  • Eye and ear injuries can occur from a blast of air or flying particles. These types of eye and ear injures can cause partial or total loss of sight or hearing.
  • The sound from a compressed air hose can reach 120-130 dB which is well above OSHA’s 90 dB permissible exposure limit.
  • 40 PSI can blow out an ear drum from 4 inches away and possibly cause brain damage..
  • As little as 12 PSI can blow an eye out of its socket!
  • Flying particles can cause cuts and bruises to any part of the body.


  • Hoses and air lines should be rated to meet the maximum operating pressure of the equipment (and indicated on the line).
  • Users should always wear proper Personal Protective Equipment:
    • Safety glasses with side shields and a face shield if needed.
    • Hearing protection.
    • Respiratory protection, depending on the material(s) being worked with.
  • Normal work clothing is not protection against compressed air.
  • If you must clean with compressed air, do not use air that is set above 30 PSI. You must also have effective chip guarding and proper PPE (OSHA standard 1910.242(b)).
  • As little as 12 PSI can blow an eye out of its socket!
  • Always use air line which meet BS 5118/1 which have factory crimped on pressure tested connections to prevent blow off under pressure or use the following O-Clips to prevent cuts from jubilee clips serrated edges which have been found during inspections; which will lead to cuts and abrasions in use or in pipe burst situation (whip affect slash injury to body or face).

Example of Double Ear O-Clips Clamps Petrol Air Water Hose Pipe Steel OClips O-Clips Clip (and crimp tool) below for reference:

Compressed Air Hose Safety
Compressed Air Hose Safety

Hope this information and guidance has proved of use to you, further guidance can be found at the HSE Web site (guidance below) and also requirements for standards of provided air equipment from the BS and EN Standards web site or your local Air equipment provider .

Health and safety in motor vehicle repair and associated industries (HSG261)

Safety of pressure systems Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000