2 Actual Air Compressor Accidents And What They Can Teach You About Keeping Your Guys Safe

Posted on: 2 July 2015

When it comes to maintaining a safe jobsite, you might be more concerned about eliminating trip and fall hazards than you are about your air compressors. After all, how much damage could those nail guns and pneumatic sanders really do? Unfortunately, if you forget about air compressor safety, your entire team could be at risk. Here are two actual air compressor accidents, and what they can teach you about keeping your guys safe:

1: "Two Men Injured In Warehouse Collapse"

In 2013, a father and son team working in an auto body paint shop were found in a pile of rubble. The New York City warehouse they had been working in had been completely leveled by an explosion. Fortunately, both men survived and were treated for serious injuries. They reported that they had been working with an air compressor, which had exploded. Investigators later found that the explosion had taken down an important load-bearing wall, which caused the building collapse.

Although air compressor explosions might not seem like a clear and present danger, those tanks can rupture in an instant if they aren't cared for properly. Here are a few things you should ask your employees to do, so that you don't find yourself in a similar situation:

  • Drain Air Tanks After Every Use: Air compressors work by harnessing the power of air pressure. Unfortunately, the air you breathe everyday contains water vapor, which can accumulate inside of your air compressor's tank. Over time, this water can create internal rust problems, which can morph into hairline cracks and pinhole leaks. To ward off internal damage, experts recommend completely draining the air from your tanks after each use. In addition to taking the pressure off of valves and internal components, moisture will also drain from the tanks and give them a chance to dry out.
  • Pay Attention to Rust Accumulation: Before your employees begin work for the day, ask them to inspect their air compressor for any signs of rust. If you spot rust, look for tiny holes in the tank. If problems are discovered, replace the air compressor at once. It might seem like an added expense, but it could save you loads of money in labor losses, lawsuits, and job site damage. 
  • Avoid Working In Wet Areas: As you set up your jobsites, try not to place air compressors in areas that could become wet, such as shower stalls, rain gutters, or low-lying areas on the ground. Letting any part of your air compressor get wet might open your tank up for rust accumulation and internal failure.

To stay safe, try to conduct regular safety audits of your own from time to time. Drain a few tanks after your workers load them into your truck, and inspect machinery for rust accumulation on a  regular basis.

2: "Builder Unintentionally Shoots a Nail Into His Own Heart"

In 2012, a New Jersey builder was working on his neighbor's roof when his nail gun jammed. When he turned the nail gun around to inspect the problem, he unintentionally shot himself in the chest. Unfortunately, the 3 ½ inch nail penetrated his heart—throwing the man into immediate cardiac arrest. Fortunately, the man was able to survive the incident after cardiac surgeons repaired the damage. 

Here are a few things you can do to keep your employees from suffering the same type of injury:

  • Don't Let Your Workers Horse Around: Everyone likes to have fun, but playing around with nail guns is a dangerous game. Don't let your workers horse around with equipment. If you spot people shooting nails at each other or playing with machinery, discipline your employees right away. 
  • Teach Proper Tool Troubleshooting: Take the time to talk with your workers about what to do if their equipment jams. Train your workers to turn off equipment and point it away from themselves before they try to clear jammed nails or brads.

By being familiar with the risks involved with air compressor use and taking the time to talk with your employees, you might be able to fend off job site disasters and keep everyone safe. You should also inspect your compressors to ensure they are working properly. If you find that you need to replace one, you can purchase a new one at a company like Compressor-Pump & Service, Inc.