Tools that are powered by compressed air are used in almost every industry, making it critical that operators and passersby alike are not only aware of safe pneumatic tool practices, but also how to properly maintain them. According to OSHA, the most common occupational injuries that occur when using pneumatic tools are getting struck by one of the tool’s attachments or by nails, staples, rivets, or other fasteners used in the tool.
For more information on creating a safer pneumatic tool safety program in your facility, explore OSHA Standard CFR 1926.302(b) for Pneumatic Power Tools.
In addition to the physical dangers associated with the tool itself, there are additional safety concerns to consider. Many facilities require multiple shifts throughout the day. That means equipment and tools like pneumatic nailers, sanders, buffers or spray guns are used around the clock. Any defect or equipment failure due to overuse can lead to serious injuries, increased downtime and loss of production.
The best way to avoid situations like these is to follow general pneumatic tool maintenance best practices.
For instance, it’s not enough to assume the tool is safe to operate. At the beginning of every shift, each operator should perform their own inspection of tools and air compressors to make sure everything is in peak working order. If, for any reason, there is any question of a tool not working properly or any signs of defect, that tool should be tagged and removed from service until a qualified person can thoroughly inspect it.
To ensure your pneumatic tools are in optimal condition, LINC offers industrial customers onsite tool repair by trained technicians on a regularly scheduled basis. Plus, our Rapid Repair program from LINC Systems for retail customers like lumberyards is a fast, efficient way to repair and service your small body, pneumatic, gas-powered and pallet strapping tools. Learn more.
Below, we’ve gathered some best practices and helpful tips to help you establish a safer and more productive work environment with your pneumatic tools.
PNEUMATIC AIR TOOL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AND MAINTENANCE TIPS
Pneumatic Tool Maintenance Step 1: Always Unplug from Air Supply When Not in Use
Pneumatic tools are powered by air. Without an air supply, there is relatively no danger to the operator. However, any time a pneumatic tool is connected to an air source, there are certain critical steps necessary for safe use and maintenance. Any time the tool is not in use, it should be unplugged from the air supply source. This includes all breaks and shift changes and should also be disconnected following the last use of the day. Even if the operator were to walk away only momentarily, the pneumatic tool should be unplugged. Failure to do so can result in accidental discharge leading to serious injury or even death.
After safely disconnecting from air supply source, make sure there are no fasteners left in the feed system or the tool itself. Never inspect the tool when still connected to its air supply!
Pneumatic Tool Maintenance Step 2: Complete Visual Inspection of Tool
Before beginning work of any kind, be sure to inspect the tool in its entirety. Check each component for free movement and be sure to tighten all cap screws and bolts. Normal wear and tear and even vibration from use can cause fasteners, doors, O-rings, nose bolts, pins and washers to become loose.
You’ll also want to be sure there are no air leaks in the tools, air lines, trigger valve or the compressor itself. This is important because the air pressure in the lines has a direct impact on the safety and effectiveness of the tool. When a tool isn’t performing at peak levels, many operators attempt to improve performance by turning up the air pressure which is not only dangerous but may violate regulations pertaining to pneumatic tool use.
It’s not only the tool itself that must be monitored for safe and effective operation. The source of compressed air must be evaluated at least two times a shift for air leaks or moisture build-up.Related: Top 10 Pneumatic Tool Safety Tips for Improved Worker Safety
Pneumatic Tool Maintenance Step 3: Inspect Feed System
What is the feed system of a pneumatic tool? The feed system is the mechanism that dispenses the intended nails, staplers or other fasteners when the tool’s trigger is engaged. Be sure to thoroughly inspect feed system for missing or broken parts. Normal wear and tear and moisture can cause damage to seals, pins or springs. Any defect will impact the safety and effectiveness of the tool. Be sure to clean feed systems daily with a clean cloth to remove debris and lubricate as recommended by the manufacturer.
Pneumatic Tool Maintenance Step 4: Check Lines and Compressor for Moisture
When using pneumatic tools and air compressors, there is a tendency for moisture to accumulate in the lines. When the tool is in use, hot and moist air begins to travel throughout the compressor and the lines. As it travels, it starts to cool by the time it reaches the tool. This constant flux in air temperature and condensation is a leading cause of tool failure and can freeze exhaust points and result in rust build-up on the tool’s metal components. Additionally, moisture can degrade seals and O-rings causing premature equipment failure.
The best way to avoid this is to eliminate moisture with an after-cooler and air dryer. If your system is not set up that way, be sure to lubricate your air tools with the correct oil regularly and clear any moisture from the lines.
Pneumatic Tool Maintenance Step 5: Lubricate Pneumatic Tools Regularly
Just like the engine in your car, your pneumatic tools need oil to run effectively. Moisture, debris and rust can destroy the individual parts of your tool, causing premature wear and lowered performance. To extend the life of your pneumatic tool and promote better performance, lubricate your tools often. How often? That can depend on several factors, including the type of pneumatic tool and its frequency of use. Different pneumatic tools like fastening tools, picture framing tools, nailers, spray guns, and reciprocating saws all require different lubrication schedules. Be sure to check with the manufacturer for their specific lubrication schedule as well as the type of oil recommended.
Pneumatic Tool Maintenance Step 6: Clean Tools at End of Day
At the end of the shift, operators should take the same care they did at the start of the shift. Be sure to disconnect the pneumatic tool from its air supply before cleaning and inspecting the tool. Failure to do so can result in injury from accidental discharge. After thoroughly inspecting the tool and making sure it is free of dirt, grime, debris or saw dust, be sure to lubricate it accordingly. Not only will this ensure longer tool life, but these steps are critical to the safety of the next shift worker.
LINC Systems can help you establish a good safety program and repairs and services all major brands of pneumatic and strapping tools for the highest level of performance. Learn more about Rapid Repair.
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LINC Systems is here with the tools and advice to help you work safely and productively. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an on-site consultation for your pneumatic tool program or set up regular service, please click here to contact us. Or, give us a call at 800-513-9918.For more safety tips on using your pneumatic tools, visit our YouTube channel and subscribe!