Mattei puts forward the case for recognised compressed air training and an official accreditation scheme

In UK manufacturing, compressed air is as widely used as gas and electricity – and yet there are no formal training or accreditation requirements in place to protect the people using it. Here Andy Jones, general manager at Mattei, explains why this could be compromising safety:

“While the risks that gas and electricity pose are widely publicised, understood and prepared for, anecdotal evidence suggests that the same cannot be said of compressed air. While it’s a vital part of the manufacturing process, when it comes to safety on the shop floor, compressed air remains largely unconsidered, or even forgotten.

“We still hear of employees using compressed air to dust off machinery, work benches and their clothes – even though if it penetrated the skin and entered the bloodstream a fatal air bubble could reach the heart or lungs. If it hit an eye or ear it could lead to blindness or loss of hearing respectively.

“And just like other pieces of industrial equipment, the compressor itself needs to be installed and maintained correctly to ensure it operates safely. A Written Scheme of Examination is a legal requirement for compressed air systems under the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000, yet awareness, compliance and policing are worryingly low.

“If a compressed air system isn’t properly and regularly maintained in accordance with a Written Scheme of Examination it could end up posing a danger (and of course won’t perform correctly or efficiently either). In very extreme cases a poorly maintained compressor might even catch fire or explode.

“Noise levels from a compressor should also be checked to ensure employees aren’t adversely affected. All compressor manufacturers have to state the noise levels of their machines in accordance to international standards, with the current one being EN ISO 2151:2008.

“We are concerned that despite the risks there are currently no formal training programmes or accreditation schemes for service engineers installing and maintaining compressed air systems – so some end users could be receiving poor advice, and safety could be being compromised.

“The British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) offers four courses; Safe Working with Compressed Air; a Certificate in Compressed Air System Technology; the Diploma in Compressed Air Management; and a Competent Examiner course for those involved in carrying out examinations in accordance with Written Schemes of Examination. However, these are voluntary.

“Ideally, Mattei would like to see the introduction of a recognised training programme and an official accreditation scheme for service engineers working on compressed air systems, and for those involved in system design and installation. We would even go so far as to suggest that we need something similar to the Gas Safe Register that is in place for installers working with gas appliances. This way only people with proven competence could install and maintain compressed air systems.

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