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Are you accountable for providing your personnel with clean, safe breathing air?

Are you aware of your responsibilities?

Compressed air is used to provide respiratory protection in a range of industrial sectors and applications where the risk of breathing ambient air is too high to mitigate using half or full face respirators.

In these types of systems, the compressed air is fed via a dedicated airline from an air compressor machine to the respirator.

An air compressor converts power (from an electric motor, diesel or petrol driven engine) by storing potential energy in the form of pressurised air. It does this by drawing in ambient air at high speed, compressing it and storing it in pressurised vessels.  However, are you aware that the contaminants present in the ambient air before compression are also draw in and concentrated by the air compressor which can also add further contamination of the air via carry over from the machines lubrication system?

It is therefore not safe to breathe the compressed air directly following compression unless the air is first purified in accordance with recognised safety standards.

In Europe, the applicable industrial standard is EN12021:2014, ‘Respiratory equipment. Compressed gases for breathing apparatus’

This standard provides guidance on the maximum permissible levels of potential contaminants in the compressed air used for breathing e.g. Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Water Vapour, Residual Oil and the acceptable range for Oxygen. Other important safety aspects such as the breathing air being considered as odour free and the air-line supplying sufficient breathing air flow for the person wearing the respirator are also considered.

There are various other International Standards which are similar to EN12021:2014 such as CGA G-7.1-2011 Grade D in the United States and AS-NZS 1715: 2009 in Australia and New Zealand.

Every employer should understand that satisfying the requirements of these standards is necessary to ensure that the risk to workers is as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) when providing compressed air to their staff for respiratory protection and when considering risk, long term health effects should be considered as well as day to day safety.

In the UK, this is a statutory legal requirement specified in COSHH L5 5th edition ACOP Approved Code of Practice; sections 190-200 cover Respiratory Protective Equipment and the UK Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Does your current system meet these standards?  Are you mitigating the risks of providing poor quality breathing air to your employees?

If you cannot confidently answer yes to both the above give us a call to discuss.