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July 2012

Putting the Squeeze on Cleaning with Compressed Air

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

Compressed air is used in industry for a variety of purposes and is considered the fourth utility after electricity, natural gas, and water.  It’s used to drive portable hand tools, used in scuba diving tanks, used in some vehicle braking systems, and also for cleaning.  Most machining and manufacturing operations have a compressed air system that allows for the quick connection of a flexible hose and air gun to clean dirt and debris from parts.  OSHA sets a limit on the use of compressed air for cleaning in their Hand and Portable Powered Tools and Other Hand-held Equipment standard, 1910. 242, as follows:

Compressed air used for cleaning. Compressed air shall not be used for cleaning purposes except where reduced to less than 30 p.s.i. and then only with effective chip guarding and personal protective equipment.

While not explicitly stated, it is OSHA’s intent that employers in general industry should not allow employees to use compressed air to clean themselves or their clothing while being worn.  However, OSHA does expressly state that, “compressed air shall not be used to clean employees” in their Marine Terminals standard, 1917.154, and recognizes this as a safe practice for all industries. 

The greatest danger of using compressed air (even at pressures as low as 5-10 p.s.i.) is the risk of air entering the body and causing an air embolism in the bloodstream. This can be fatal.  Other risks include damage to the eyes and respiratory system as well as hearing impairment if suitable protective equipment isn’t used. 

It’s important to realize that most compressed air systems used for pneumatic tools and air guns operate at 80-120 p.s.i.  In the case of air guns used for cleaning, the nozzle tip must be equipped with a relief device or port to reduce the pressure under 30 p.s.i. if the air system becomes obstructed or dead ended. 

When purchasing air guns, look for those equipped with an engineered air nozzle meeting the OSHA less than 30 p.s.i. static pressure requirement along with a chip shield and noise output of less than 83 dBA. 

Finally, always remember to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment when cleaning parts and equipment with compressed air. 

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Hexavalent Chromium (CrVI): A Not So Silent Enemy

Stephen-Badger Posted by Stephen Badger

Chromium in various forms has been with us since before the beginning of recorded time. It was used to cover the bronze spearheads of warriors in ancient China to harden and prevent rust on the tips.  Modern uses of chromium include the making /welding of stainless steel, welding on steel that contains chromium, and the chrome plating of consumer products for motorcycles, automobiles and furniture. Hexavalent chromium is created when chromium metal is heated and through other chemical processes.

Unfortunately, the same properties that make this metal useful also cause severe illness and even death if we are exposed to airborne concentrations exceeding OSHA permissible exposure limits (PEL). Health effects can vary from skin ulceration to kidney and liver damage.  Hexavalent chromium is also a known carcinogen (causes cancer).

Chromium can cause other health effects such as contact dermatitis. On February 2, 2010, OSHA issued a Standard Letter of Interpretation which states “…work with cement is regarded as the most common cause of (hexavalent chromium) induced dermatitis”. The clean-up of any dusts that may contain hexavalent chromium should be performed using a HEPA filtered vacuum and appropriate PPE to prevent employee contact. The hexavalent chromium in the cement comes primarily from the grinding media (high chromium steel) used to reduce the “clinkers” to a fine powder during the production process. Clinkers are the small round by-products of the raw materials after they are exposed to high temperatures.

If Hexavalent Chromium is present in your workplace the following steps are recommended to help limit employee exposures:

  1. Communicate Hexavalent Chromium hazards to all affected workers.
  2. Label the workplace with signs to clearly identify areas where the PEL for Hexavalent Chromium may be exceeded.
  3. Provide employees in these areas with respiratory protection, as outlined in 29 CFR 1910.134.
  4. Provide protective clothing, change areas (to separate work from personal clothing), wash facilities and designated eating areas.
  5. Schedule air sampling to ensure interim respiratory protection measures are adequate.
  6. Implement an engineering plan (with the assistance of an outside vendor or consultant) to reduce Hexavalent Chromium exposure levels through the use of exhaust ventilation.
  7. Schedule follow-up air sampling to confirm engineering controls reduce the Hexavalent Chromium to levels below the OSHA Action Level -- or that respiratory protection remains adequate (in the event exhaust ventilation is not feasible).

OSHA has also published a guide entitled, “Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Hexavalent Chromium Standard” to help small businesses comply with the standard and a general facts sheet that can be very helpful in understanding the health effects of Hexavalent Chromium.  

Does Your Exposure Control Plan Cover All the Bases?

Clendenning Donna Posted by Donna Clendenning

OSHA estimates that 5.6 million workers in the healthcare industry and related occupations are at risk of occupational exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens.  Check out their health care hazards page for more information. 

Recently, I have been reviewing written Exposure Control Plans (ECP) for employers that have occupational exposure risks to blood borne pathogens and/or other potentially infectious disease.  General Industry Standard 1910.1030 covers the details of Bloodborne Pathogens and the requirement to have a written ECP 1910.1030(c).

A common thread found among employers is that their written Exposure Control Plans are not updated (annually and whenever necessary) to reflect new or modified tasks and procedures which affect occupational exposure risks.  Refer to 1910.1030(c)(1)(iv).

The annual review requires employers who have occupational exposure risks to “document annually consideration and implementation of appropriate commercially available and effective safer medical devices designed to eliminate or minimize occupational exposure.”  1910.1030(c)(1)(iv)(B).

Further, the standard requires solicitation and input in the identification, evaluation, and selection of effective engineering and work practice controls from non-managerial employees who are responsible for direct patient care and are at risk from contaminated sharps.  The evaluation and selection process must be documented annually in the Exposure Control Plan. 1910.1030(c)(1)(v).

For further information on the requirements of your written Exposure Control Plan, go to OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens and Needle Stick prevention page.  

Personal Protective Equipment Evaluation: Is Yours Documented?

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

It’s one thing to provide safety glasses to employees for eye protection or a pair of gloves to prevent nicks and cuts to hands and fingers, but it’s also important to document the selection and use of personal protective equipment through a written hazard assessment.  The Occupational Safety & Health Administration requires written certification in their Personal Protective Equipment Standard, 29 CFR 1910.132, General Requirements, as follows.


The employer shall verify that the required workplace hazard assessment has been performed through a written certification that identifies the workplace evaluated; the person certifying that the evaluation has been performed; the date(s) of the hazard assessment; and, which identifies the document as a certification of hazard assessment.

For MEMIC policyholders, a sample Personal Protective Equipment Hazard Assessment Certificate is available in the Safety Director Resource Library.  This certificate categorizes the protection assessment into tables for the eye and face, head, foot, hand, and work clothing for bodily injury with a space provided for the certifier’s name, title, and signature.

Using a hazard assessment certificate form can guide you through the selection of appropriate PPE based on the job hazard(s) and can also save you the pain of an OSHA citation.

Celebrate the 4th of July Safely

Beth Stowell  Posted by Beth Stowell

Every year families and friends gather to celebrate holidays. Vow to make memories you really want to remember.  Let’s make sure we visit family and friends at gatherings rather than in the emergency room.

If you are traveling, plan the trip well and get plenty of sleep prior to driving.  For information about fatigued driving read these articles from  Ensure everyone buckles up and the driver isn’t distracted by cell phones or activity within the car.  Alcohol is often a part of holiday fun, but please be responsible. 

Remember to designate a driver, not just for cars, but also for boats, and never drive or ride on an ATV if you have been drinking.     

Food is always a big part of holiday parties.  Just be sure all prepared foods are properly refrigerated prior to serving and kept cool by a bed of ice if left out while serving.  All leftovers should be covered and refrigerated promptly.  Check out this Seasonal Food Safety Fact Sheet from the USDA.     

July 4th is synonymous with outdoor parties and recreation.  All boaters should wear floatation devices.  Be alert for swimmers and any debris in the water that could cause damage or an injury.  Know the water depth where there will be boating or any swimming or diving, and pay attention to the weather forecast.  Use sunscreen and stay hydrated.  The U.S. Coast Guard is a great resource and maintains an online Boating Safety Resource Center

Don’t operate an ATV or other equipment unless you are properly trained, know the limitations of your machine, and wear all appropriate safety gear, especially a helmet.  More ATV safety information is available from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.      

These are a few tips to plan for a memorable July 4th.  Have a fun and safe holiday and take some pictures to capture those memories!