Breathing air testing

‘Employers have a duty of care to ensure that the breathing air they supply to their employees is safe to breathe, breathing air testing is necessary at regular intervals’

Many companies use their compressed air system for breathing air. Breathing air is usually necessary when staff are working in hostile environments (such as paint shops). Air supplied by a standard air compressor is not of a quality required for breathing air. It is normally necessary to include  additional filtration to the air line in order to get air of the correct quality.  The specified standard for breathable air is BS EN12021: 2014 ‘Respiratory protective devices Compressed gasses for breathing apparatus’

Extract from BS EN12021 – Clause 6

‘Compressed gas for breathing shall not contain contaminants at a concentration which can cause toxic or harmful effects. In any event, all contaminants shall be kept as low as possible and shall be less than one tenth of a national 8h exposure limit’.

  • Oxygen                                                             (21 ± 1) % by volume
  • Carbon dioxide                                ≤ 500ml/m3 (ppm)
  • Carbon monoxide                           ≤ 5ml/m3 (ppm)
  • Oil                                                       ≤ 0.5 mg/m3
  • Water (vapour)                               Compressed breathing air shall have a dew point sufficiently low to prevent condensation and freezing.
  • Odour / Taste                                  Be free from unacceptable odour / taste

Click here to to download the BCAS Breathing Air factsheet

Breathing air testing

The HSE states that breathing air should be tested based on risk assessment, but it must be tested at least every 3 months and more frequently if local situation demands it. This is necessary to ensure the breathing air is meeting all necessary standards. Each point of use needs to be tested.

A breathing air test usually checks the level of oxygen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water vapour, and oil in the air. There are systems available that the constantly monitor the level of all these in real time. Talk to us for more information on this.

Breathing air test results need to be kept for a period of at least 5 years.

Contact us for any more information on Breathing air testing

Point of use breathing air systems

Most companies will use their standard workshop air compressor as a source of compressed air for breathing air use. This is perfectly ok as long as the compressor is well maintained and sited correctly. In practical terms this means the air compressor needs to be serviced regularly. The source of the air that the compressor uses needs to be of high quality (eg away from carparks / lorry parks or other industrial gas outlets). The compressor system also requires a fridge dryer and standard filtration.

The compressed air can then be distributed through normal pipework in the normal way along with the factory air. A normal pipe outlet can be used for the breathing air. What is then critical is that the air is further filtered at point of use before it enters the face mask. Special breathing air point of use filters are available that ensure the air is treated to meet the breathing air standards. These are often mounted on the users belt so risk of contamination between the filter and mask is minimised.

Dedicated breathing air systems

Some companies have dedicated breathing air pipework supplies. In these circumstances precautions need to be made to keep the air quality at the correct level downstream of the filtration. Typically this involves using copper of stainless steel pipework, special breathing air quick release couplings (these need to be different to the standard airline quick release couplings to ensure the wrong air supply cant be connected to by mistake)

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Breathing Air Testing

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