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Compressed Air & Pneumatics - Fluid Controls

How To Improve Safety Standards in the Pneumatic industry

When it comes to handling compressed air and pneumatic equipment, safety is paramount. Because this energy-efficient power source can be a danger to personnel and machinery if not managed carefully. Here, Fluid Controls explores how manufacturers can maintain pneumatic safety standards by following regulations and adopting certain measures.  

Pneumatic safety regulations and standards

Compressed air has the potential to be hazardous to both personnel and equipment. Therefore, various pneumatic regulations apply to employers and manufacturers to ensure the highest safety standards are maintained in the workplace and the manufacture of pneumatic equipment. 

The following is a sample selection of just some of the applicable pneumatic safety standards in the UK:

  • International Standard ISO 13849-1:2015 – Safety of machinery — Safety-related parts of control systems — Part 1: General principles for design.
  • International Standard ISO 4414:2010 – Pneumatic fluid power — General rules and safety requirements for systems and their components.
  • International Standard ISO 6150:2018 – Pneumatic fluid power — Cylindrical quick-action couplings for maximum working pressures of 1 MPa, 1,6 MPa, and 2,5 MPa (10 bar, 16 bar and 25 bar) — Plug connecting dimensions, specifications, application guidelines and testing.
  • International Standard ISO 5774:2016 – Plastics hoses — Textile-reinforced types for compressed-air applications — Specification.
  • International Standard ISO 2398:2016 – Rubber hoses, textile-reinforced, for compressed air — Specification.
  • Compressed Air Safety (HSG39) – A guide to headline dangers of air compression use, published by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

Common pneumatic system hazards

Some of the most common and costly pneumatic system hazards include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Over-pressurisation
  • Blockages
  • Failure of automatic controls 
  • Over-speeding
  • External fires 
  • Overheating 
  • Deposit accumulation

Safety precautions when using pneumatic systems

When designing a safe and effective pneumatic system, there are some key safety precautions to bear in mind that can help mitigate some common safety hazards associated with pneumatic applications.

Prevent unplanned start-ups

One of the most crucial safety measures of any pneumatic system is to prevent any unplanned, accidental start-up of machinery. This is commonly achieved using a purpose-built pneumatic safety valve. A solenoid valve with a single valve element is typically ample for a PLC-based system, whereas more complex setups may require more complex valves with redundant valve elements.

Air pressure exhaust protection

It is not uncommon for an unscheduled start-up to coincide with an exhausting or dumping of air pressure. For that reason, numerous safety-minded components now mitigate against both occurrences. For instance, in the event of a failure, pressure supply valves are designed to reduce the likelihood of over-pressuring within the system while simultaneously exhausting air pressure in a safe and controlled manner.

Reduce the speed

Whilst it may sound obvious, ensuring you can simply reduce the speed is one of the simplest and most effective safety options available when designing a pneumatic system. This can be achieved by integrating a few simple flow controls, which should ideally be fitted with tamper-proof locks to prevent deviation from the set parameters.

Stop, block and hold

Another key safety measure for pneumatic systems is stopping, blocking or holding the equipment as required. This safety function can be achieved in several ways, depending on the system configuration. For instance, a check valve could be installed in the cylinder port to hold the load. Another example is to add a mechanical brake to the cylinder’s piston rod by way of a valve and spring pressure to clamp it into position.

Reversing cylinder movement

In simpler pneumatic systems, cylinder movement can be achieved with a spring-return solenoid valve. However, more complex setups might benefit from a more durable option, like a servo-pneumatic valve, which interfaces with a sensor that determines the position of the valve elements and relays this data to a PLC. This, in turn, prevents the cylinder from extending unless the valve elements move.  

Quality assured at Fluid Controls

Your safety and that of your personnel, machinery and plant are paramount to us here at Fluid Controls. As one of the UK’s leading distributors of pressure control products, we can supply a vast range of control solutions and pressure control equipment to safeguard your pneumatic systems. We have one of the world’s largest ranges of compressed air and pneumatic products from manufacturing giants, IMI Norgren.

Specialists in pressure management, Fluid Controls supplies an extensive selection of pressure control equipment to a broad range of industries, including the automotive, chemical, process, power generation and semiconductor sectors. As a fully accredited ISO9001:2015 company, we’ve made a strong commitment to quality, exemplified by our added-value services, including full technical back-up, in-house or on-site product training, installation and servicing, pressure testing and repairs, and safety at work training.

From pneumatic safety valves to flow control valves, pressure switches, actuators and pneumatic fittings, we’re sure to have the perfect safety-conscious components for you to maintain optimal pneumatic safety standards at all times. For more information about our vast range of products or to discuss your application in more detail, please contact Fluid Controls on +44 (0)118 970 2060 or email fluid@fluidcontrols.co.uk

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