A mechanic with a small cut on his hand washed some machine parts in a solvent. To dry them, he held the parts in a compressed air stream. A few minutes later he told his supervisor he “felt like his body was going to explode!”

With such unusual symptoms, the injured worker was rushed to a hospital. Doctors decided that the compressed air had penetrated the cut on his hand and had forced air bubbles into his blood stream. Although the mechanic recovered from his self-inflicted injury, his mistake could have been fatal if an air bubble had reached his heart.

Injuries caused by the misuse of compressed air have occurred since this energy source was developed. In fact, compressed air is used so much that too many of us take it for granted, ignoring the hazards involved in its use.

In addition to the danger of air bubbles entering the bloodstream through a cut, a stream of  compressed air can damage an eardrum or eye or inflate a part of the body.

Many people blow dust and dirt from their clothing, body or hair with compressed air. Even if the pressure is as low as 20 to 25 psi, when directed toward openings in the skin or body, air can penetrate causing serious injuries.

  • 12psi can “Pop” an eyeball from its socket.
  • 4psi in the mouth can rupture the lungs & intestine.

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.242(b)


If used for cleaning purposes pressure must be maintained less than 30psi.


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