Are Air Compressors Dangerous?

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Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by John Smith

If you’re willing to spend you hard-earned money on an expensive air compressor (regardless if it’s a single or twin tank model), you probably wondered about how safe it was to use.

And that is a fair question, believe me.

The thing is that it’s a bit difficult to find an in-depth guide that can easily tell you what are the dangers related to using an air compressor and, more importantly, how to prevent these risks.

This is why I decided to make this quick article where I’ll tell you whether an air compressor is dangerous or not.

Let’s begin.


Are Air Compressors Dangerous?

Regardless if you get a vertical, hotdog or even a pancake air compressor, there are always risks related to running these tools.

Here are the most common dangers that you’re exposed to when using air compressors:

  1. Electrical hazard
  2. Hearing Damage
  3. Flying Debris
  4. High Pressure
  5. Fire Hazard

1. Electrical hazard

Alright, let’s talk about the first thing that can go wrong with air compressors: electrical hazards.

You know how air compressors have all those wires and connections inside?

Well, that also means there’s always a chance something could go wrong with the electrical system. If something does go wrong, it could lead to a short-circuit and that could start a fire or even give you a shock.

And if you’re not careful to keep your air compressor clean and oiled up, the chances of something going wrong with the electrical system increases. So, make sure to keep your air compressor in good shape to avoid electrical hazards.

2. Hearing Damage

Once you damage your hearing, it’s gone for good. And, let me tell you, those air compressors aren’t helping.

Because they’re made with combustion engines, they can make all sorts of noise depending on how strong and old the motor is. And trust me, these things can get real loud, like over 120 decibels loud.

That’s the kind of noise that can make you go deaf.

And it’s not just the noise, these compressors can also send out vibrations that can hurt your inner ear and cause hearing loss.

3. Flying Debris

Believe it or not, air compressors can put your body at risk as they frequently throw particles present in the air with much force, all over the place. These dirt particles, can not only make your body hurt but also seriously injure you.

It’s all because of the way the compressor works. When the motor is running, it sucks in a bunch of air and then, after compressing it, it releases the extra air with a lot of force, and that’s when all those particles start flying around.

But don’t worry, there’s a way to protect yourself. Just wear some safety gear like work glasses, and they will cover the most sensitive parts of your body that could get injured by flying debris. This is the best way to stay safe and avoid getting hurt.

4. High Pressure

There’s a good chance that you’ve never experienced high air pressure on your body, and that’s a good thing.

When you accidentally put an air compressor’s high air pressure on your body you’ll be putting a high level of compressed air pressure in your tissue which could seriously harm you.

The injuries range from minor lacerations to serious wounds like broken bones. So making sure to handle your air compressor carefully and try to wear a nice layer of clothes and safety equipment if possible.

5. Fire Hazard

And finally, the elephant in the room – fire hazards.

Oh yeah, those air compressors can get real hot, especially when they’re running at full throttle.

And if you’re using a gas air compressor, things can get even more dangerous because these air compressors store flammable gas which could explode if it catches fire.

Scary stuff, right?

But here’s the good news, you can avoid this fire hazard very easily.

Just keep a close eye on the temperature of your air compressor and regularly maintain it to make sure everything is in good working order. Like checking for dirt in the air intakes, making sure the oil level is good, etc.

Trust me, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to fire hazards.


Air Compressor Safety Precautions

Here are some precautions to take when trying to make sure that you’ll not deal with any of the previous hazards I just talked about:

  1. Do a prep check
  2. Enhance air circulation
  3. Check pressure ratings
  4. Use safety valve
  5. Guard all moving parts
  6. Reduce humidity
  7. Clean air intake
  8. Frequently drain/maintain the air compressor
  9. Don’t let air hose be bent
  10. Use proper safety gear

1. Do a prep check

If you have the time to work on your next project, you have the time to take a few minutes and do a prep check to make sure everything will run perfectly when using your air compressor.

These are the steps you need to follow:

  • Check oil levels
  • Check fuel levels (if powered by fuel)
  • Make sure air filters are clean
  • Secure connections with pneumatic tools
  • Check proper connection with power outlet (if electrical)

2. Enhance air circulation

You know when you’re using an air compressor, it’s not just compressing air, it’s also releasing pollutants into the air, especially if it’s a fuel-powered one.

And let me tell you, these pollutants (e.g. carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen) are not something you want to breathe in.

But here’s the good news, you can avoid all this by running your air compressor in an open space.

This way, the pollutants will disperse into the air without affecting the air quality around you.

So, next time you’re using an air compressor, make sure you’re doing it in an open space. Your lungs will thank you.

3. Check pressure ratings

Air compressors are amazing machines that will make your pneumatic tools, like framing nailers or air impact wrenches, run like a dream.

But, as with most machines, there are certain precautions you need to take to make sure that the air compressor doesn’t get damaged or worse, explode.

One of those precautions is preventing the air compressor from outputting too much air pressure.

Not only will this stop the air compressor from damaging the pneumatic tool, but it will also keep the motor from running at unsustainable levels, which could lead to serious problems.

So, don’t let the power of the air compressor go above of what it’s supposed to go and keep an eye on the pressure levels. Trust me, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to explosions.

4. Use safety valve

Want to make sure that your air compressor doesn’t over-pressurize and that everyone stays safe in case of an accident? Then you need to use the safety valve.

It’s like a guardian angel for your air compressor.

The safety valve is responsible for keeping the air pressure at the level that the tool needs, preventing the air compressor from running at high revolutions, which can be not only dangerous but also responsible for shortening the lifespan of the pneumatic tool.

So, don’t take any chances and make sure you’re using the safety valve.

It’s the key to keeping your air compressor running smoothly and safely, for you and your colleagues.

5. Guard all moving parts

When an air compressor is running, there are a lot of moving parts going on, like the rotor for example.

And, trust me, you don’t want to get too close to those moving parts, they can be dangerous, especially if you touch them.

The best way to keep everyone safe is by guarding them, thus making sure no one touches those moving parts.

And not just that, it also helps to improve the air compressor’s lifespan because it keeps the internal components isolated from the surrounding environment.

6. Reduce humidity

Excessive moisture in the air can be a real pain for air compressors, causing rust and corrosion that can reduce its lifespan and even make it malfunction.

And trust me, a malfunctioning air compressor is not something you want to deal with.

But, there’s good news, you can reduce this risk by keeping the humidity levels low in the environment where the air compressor is located.

You can get a dehumidifier or even open a window or two to let in some fresh air. Simple yet effective.

7. Clean air intake

The air compressor works by taking air from its surrounding environment and compressing it (in one or two stages).

If this air happens to be dirty or with some debris because the air intake is dirty you run the risk of damaging the internal components.

This not only affects the lifespan of the air compressor but also presents some dangerous potential hazards as it will definitely make it malfunction.

So, frequently cleaning the air intake should be a nice idea as it will guarantee that the air the air compressor takes from its surroundings is free of dirt and debris.

8. Frequently drain/maintain the air compressor

If you want to prevent you air compressor from malfunctioning, you should make sure that its tank is drained and the oil/fuel reserves are full.

Draining the tank is key to prevent corrosion and future malfunctions that could lead to serious hazards.

On the other hand, making sure the oil/fuel reserves are full is equally important. It’s the lifeblood of the air compressor, and without it, the air compressor would not function. It keeps the internal parts lubricated and cools down the engine, avoiding any damage caused by heat and friction.

Both of these tasks are essential to make sure that the air compressor is running efficiently which will, in turn, reduce harmful emissions and the risks of dealing with electrical and fire hazards.

9. Don’t let air hose be bent

When it comes to using an air compressor, one thing you definitely want to avoid is a bent air hose.

It might not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it can cause a serious malfunction.

When the air hose is bent, it affects the air flow which can lead to overheating, and that’s when things can get dangerous. Overheating can lead to electrical or fire hazards, and nobody wants their air compressor to explode.

Keep an eye on it and straighten it out if you notice it’s not looking right.

It’s a small step that can make a big difference in ensuring that the internal components of the air compressor are working properly.

10. Use proper safety gear

Last but not least, I’d tell you to use proper safety gear when using an air compressor.

The correct safety gear will protect your and those surrounding you which could substantially reduce the chances of dealing with serious accidents/injuries.

So, wearing safety gear like work glasses, work pants, or hard hats should be your best bet to make sure nothing happens to you.


Are Air Compressors Dangerous? My Take

Are air compressors dangerous?

Well…. they can be if they aren’t taken care of properly. It’s very easy for them to cause a fire or electrical hazard.

But, that doesn’t mean you should avoid getting one.

No way!

Air compressors are incredibly useful tools that can make your work easier and more efficient. You just have to make sure you’re taking the proper precautions to keep yourself and your equipment safe.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Regular maintenance is key. Make sure you’re keeping an eye on the air compressor’s tank and oil/fuel reserves, and keep the humidity levels low.
  • Do a prep check before using the air compressor. This includes checking the air hose and making sure it’s not bent, and checking the safety valve to make sure it’s functioning properly.
  • Safety gear is a must. Wear work glasses, work pants, a hard hat, earplugs or earmuffs, a respirator mask, and work gloves to protect yourself from flying debris, loud noise, and harmful emissions.

By following these tips, you can enjoy the benefits of an air compressor without worrying about dangerous malfunctions.


Best Air Compressor w/ Safety Features

DEWALT DXCM271.COM 27 Gal. 200 PSI Portable Air Compressor

Features

  • Pressure rating: 5.1 SCFM at 90 PSI
  • Maintenance: Oil free motor
  • Noise: Less than 80 dBA

Dewalt is a household name when it comes to top-of-the-line air compressors, and the DXCM271 model is no exception.

With a powerful low-voltage motor that pumps out an impressive 5.1 SCFM at 90 PSI, this air compressor can handle all of your pneumatic tool air pressure needs with ease.

And thanks to its convenient wheels and sturdy handle, moving it around is a breeze.

Although the air filter placement is a bit awkward, the oil-free piston more than makes up for it as it requires no maintenance.

Plus, at just 80 dBA of noise made when operating, it won’t damage your hearing like some other air compressors might if you’re working with them all day.

Pros

  • Powerful low-voltage motor outputs 5.1 SCFM at 90 PSI to run all your pneumatic tools with shorter recovery times (200 max PSI)
  • Makes less than 80 dBA of noise to reduce the chance of hearing damage
  • Robust handle and wheels simplify transportation
  • Easy to read air pressure gauges for maximum convenience
  • Oil free maintenance

Cons

  • Air filter could be more accessible

Customer Reviews and Scores

There are more than 153 reviews on Amazon.com about this product at the time of writing and they have given it a 4.3 out of 5 rating on average. These reviews are positive overall.



Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequent questions regarding air compressors and the hazards they present when operating them.

Is it safe to breathe air from a compressor?

I believe it’s not safe to breathe air from an air compressor.

Many air compressors, particularly those with internal combustion engines, emit harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide that should never be inhaled by humans.

This poses a major risk, particularly when air compressors are used indoors.

If you own a gas-powered air compressor, it’s crucial to ensure it is placed in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling any of the dangerous emissions it produces.

Your health and the health of your colleagues should always be a top priority, so take the necessary precautions to keep the air around your air compressor safe to breathe.

Can an air compressor cause a fire?

Yes, an air compressor can cause a fire.

When an air compressor operates, it makes it internal components raise temperatures, specifically its motor.

If the air compressor is not well maintained or if there is an existing mechanical issue, this could lead to a malfunction which could end up in a fire hazard, especially if the air compressor is gas-powered.

Is it safe to use an air compressor indoors?

It depends.

If it’s an electrical air compressor, then, knowing it doesn’t store fuel, I’d say you could run it safely indoors as it shouldn’t emit harmful gases.

However, if you’re running a gas air compressor then I’d definitely tell you it’s not safe to run it indoors. Gas air compressors have combustion engines that emit harmful gases like carbon monoxide, which are supposed to be released into an open are instead of indoors.

Author
Hi, I’m John Smith, a proud husband, and father of two little beautiful girls. After a long time of thinking I made up my mind to build a website around my passion.. helping people who need smart advice from handymen with years of experience.

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