Breathing Air Quality Testing for Air Compressors

If you are using compressed air for breathing, you have a legal and moral duty to ensure that the breathing air meets the required standards for use, and those standards are high.

In the UK, standard EN 12021 governs breathing air quality testing. However, depending on your use, there might be other considerations, creating a complex set of requirements your compressed air system must meet.

breathing air test

Why breathing air quality testing is essential

The breathing air risk most people think of is asphyxiation. This can be a real danger if sufficient oxygen is not supplied, especially in spaces where it might not be noticed, such as a nitrogen environment. But there are many other risks from low-quality breathing air.

Air can contain many contaminants that can impact health. Some particulates, for example, can have a cumulative effect, remaining in the lungs and creating respiratory health problems years later. Another, shorter-acting, example is carbon monoxide. This forms a much stronger bond with blood cells than oxygen, and remains attached for hours, even with treatment. However, because it takes time for the symptoms to manifest, and they can be subtle, someone can have been breathing it for hours without realising it.

These invisible risks make it vital to test the quality of air to ensure that users are not facing a greater — if different — danger than the environment they are in.

Air Quality Testing

Our testing services

Our testing services will assess every aspect of your compressed breathing air. As well as testing the oxygen level, we will also check to ensure there’s nothing that you don’t want in your air. This will include sampling for carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, water vapour, oil, and particulates.

vacuum pumps checked for traces of oil

Compliance and standards

BS EN 12021 sets a baseline of quality for breathing air, including things like the levels of oxygen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

The guidance is that compressed air quality testing should take place at least every three months. However, this is a minimum frequency. Testing should be repeated whenever there is a change that could affect quality. This might include operational changes that can affect intake air, moving an air compressor, or even a change in the prevailing wind for compressors that are exposed to the elements.
However, although EN 12021 relates to breathing air quality, there is a raft of other applicable regulations. These will include health and safety at work, personal protective equipment, and the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) regulations. Some specialist users might also need to meet the standards from The Work in Compressed Air Regulations 1996, which covers work in areas that are at a higher air pressure than normal, atmospheric pressures.

The sheer range of regulation and guidance, along with the importance of safe, breathable air, makes professional testing essential.


How breathing air is tested

Our engineers will test the air at a range of test points in the system over a period of at least fifteen minutes. From this, it can provide an accurate assessment of the content of the air, ensuring it meets standards and confirming other conditions like flow rate, pressure, and air temperature are suitable.

If we detect any anomalies, the use of different test points means we can quickly isolate and rectify any issues. And, afterwards, we can provide a certificate of testing, so you can document that you are meeting all your legal duties.

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Getting your breathing air tested

Whether you only need a breathing air test every three months, or more frequent testing, we can help.

We can include breathing air tests in all our service plans, or even offer a standalone service. Our hassle-free plans mean you can leave everything to us, even tracking when tests are due, and all remedial work can be included in our single monthly fee.

Whether you want to consult an expert to make sure you have the testing regime you need, schedule a test, or let us take care of everything with a service plan, just get in touch. Then you can rest easy, ensure the safety of your staff, and know that your compressed air system is in expert hands.