Safety, Use Tips: Portable Air Compressors On Drilling Jobs

- Nov 17, 2020-

Do you use supplemental air on the jobsite? Proper positioning, setup and use of portable air compressors is critical.


Portable air compressors are a familiar piece of equipment in the drilling industry, so much so that many contractors and operators don’t always consider the potential dangers associated with air compressor use. But common misuse and misconceptions about air compressor operation can lead to safety concerns. Learn how to avoid or correct these five misuses of and misconceptions regarding portable air compressors.

Compressed Air is Not Breathable Air

Commercial compressed air has many uses in the drilling industry — sandblasting, powering jackhammers and drill heads — but use as breathable air is not among them.

A Little Compressed Air Can and Does Hurt

Never use compressed air to clean off dust or debris from clothing and especially bare skin. Never point compressed air at any part of the body or person. 

Not All Hoses are Created Equal

Air compressor hoses need to be specifically rated for the application and suited to handle different variations in pressure and temperature. Improper hoses can explode, rupture or separate from the air connection, putting an operator at risk of physical harm.

Portable Doesn’t Mean Move By Hand

Despite being on wheels, a portable air compressor should never be moved by hand. This creates an unsafe situation in which the machine has the potential to roll backward or downhill. Always move or reposition a portable air compressor with a towing vehicle, even if it is only a few feet. Place wheel chocks under the air compressor before disconnecting the hitch from the tow vehicle, regardless of surface conditions.

Let Air In by Keeping Doors Closed

It is a common misconception that an air compressor should be operated with the side doors open to provide more cooling, but the opposite is true. The air compressor is designed to pull air through the intake grill to cool the internal components. The machine cannot properly circulate air with the doors open, and the machine can overheat and shut down.

Understanding and avoiding these five common misuses of and misconceptions regarding air compressors can go a long way toward completing one of the most important jobs on a drilling site: working safely.