Compressor Safety Tips – Know the Basics

April 25, 2015

Safety comes first while operating an air compressor, which is true with any other rotating equipment. An air compressor produces air at high pressure which is used for a variety of applications. Compresses air has a lot of potential energy and is very safe if used properly. Unsafe use can cause severe damages to equipment and life.

Here are some safety tips that you need to know while dealing with air compressors and compressed air systems.

Personnel protective equipment (PPE)

Always remember to use personnel protective equipment while dealing with air compressors. Eye and hearing protection are good examples.

Operator Training

Properly trained and knowledgeable operator in essential for safe and effective operation of your air compressor. It is important to read and follow the operating manual. Operating manual should be available to the operators for ready reference as needed.

Visual Check before Use

Before operating an air compressor inspect and make sure that it is in safe working order. Look for general cleanliness, any cracks of the hose, loose parts, dirty filters, oil spillage etc. Clean and replace parts that look defective and never take chances with safety.

Safety Guards

All rotating parts of the air compressor should be properly guarded. Make sure that all safety guards like coupling guards, v-belt covers etc. are in place before operating your air compressor.

Check the Lubrication

Verify the lubrication and check the oil levels before starting the air compressor. Carefully top up oil if needed, without spilling or over filling. Over filling can cause pressure build up in the oil chamber leading to issues like overheating, leakages, an even bursting of gaskets.

Hazardous Areas

Make sure to use properly certified equipment when dealing with hazardous zones. Some air tools can produce static electricity and therefore make sure to adequately ground the air compressor before using, especially in areas where flammable vapors may me present.

Engine Operated Compressors

Gasoline or Diesel operated air compressors should not be operated indoors. The engine exhausts may contain carbon monoxide and other toxic gases that are harmful. Always make sure that engine exhaust is directed away from the compressor intake to ensure that the air entering your compressor is clean and at ambient temperature. Warm air intake will reduce the operational efficiency of your compressor.

Cooling Water

For water cooled air compressors, make sure that the cooling water system is switched ON before starting the compressor. Compressors produce large amount of heat and your forgetting or delaying to switch ON the cooling water can cause severe damages. It is important to keep the flow rate, temperature and pressure of the cooling water within the safe limits recommended by the manufacturer.

Electric Operated Portable Compressors

If you are dealing with a portable electric compressor, make sure you plug it to a grounded power outlet. Remember to use right gage of extension cord with lengths NOT exceeding what the user manual recommend. Under-sized or longer extension cords can cause voltage drop that could cause damages to the compressor motor.

Pressure rating

Make sure that all the system components in your compressed air system are rated to handle the pressure generated by your compressor. For example, your air receiver, safety valves, piping, fittings, hoses and air tools should be able to handle the pressure of the compressor. Read the labels and make sure everything is in order before you operate.

Shut off valve

It is recommenced to have a shut off valve close to the point of use in order to shut off the air supply immediately as needed.

Safety valve

All air receiver tanks should have safety valves according to the statutory regulations and should be set just below the maximum pressure rating of the tank. This is to ensure that the safety valve will open and release the excess air pressure to atmosphere before the pressure inside the tank could reach the maximum limit. Periodic Checking of the safety valve is essential to ensure safe operation of your compressor.

Pressure Gauges

Make sure that all pressure gauges and meters are in proper working condition and calibrated.


Never try to refill oil or add fuel when the compressor is in operation or just recently stopped. Fuel and oil vapors can ignite at high temperature and cause severe damages.

Shutting down

Follow manufacturer’s instructions while shutting down air compressors, especially large compressed air systems. In case of a portable compressor, if you are done with your work shut off the motor and unplug the power cord. Close the regulator valve and release all the remaining air from the receiver tank. In order to avoid condensation damages, it is recommended to leave the drain valve open until you use your compressor again.

Regular inspection

Make sure that your compressor and associated system elements are periodically inspected by qualified personnel and well maintained.