Safe use of pneumatic systems

Author: CEmarking TEAM | Last edited: 15.06.2020

Machines with pneumatic actuators are used in many industrial areas. Even when used as intended, pneumatic systems can cause hazards. Protection against such hazards is required according to the Machinery Directive and related standards and safety regulations. For the practical use, the following examples of possible hazard and their causes are described and guidance for safe handling of pneumatic systems are given.

Hazardous machine movement
Dangerous machine movements, which can be caused by insufficient protective devices or inadequate control concepts. However, failure and return of power, component failure, pressure drop or residual energy contained in the system can also be the cause of dangerous machine movements.

Ejection of parts
Blowing away parts, the cause of which is improper assembly, unacceptable pressure increase (bursting of components) but also unacceptable pressure drop (e.g. on clamping devices).

Discharge of compressed air
Release of compressed air, especially if this occurs in conjunction with solid particles (contamination).

Ripping of hose assemblies
Reasons for whipping up hose assemblies can be the use of unsafe quick disconnect couplings, incorrect selection of hose assemblies, unfavorable hose clamps or external influences.

Protective measures

The hazards mentioned above can be avoided or reduced by design, control and equipment-related and organisational measures and by correct handling during use. It is very important that work on pneumatic systems may only be carried out by authorised personnel. The necessary personal protective equipment must be provided and used. In addition, the following instructions should be observed:

Selection and procurement

Installation and commissioning


Servicing and inspection

Repair and maintenance

Rules of conduct

  1. loads held up or machine parts on inclined planes must be lowered or supported
  2. switch off the control unit.
  3. disconnect all energy sources and secure them against re-connection.
  4. All parts of the pneumatic system must be depressurized and checked. Attention must also be paid to stored energy.
  5. If necessary, adjacent machines, e.g. in interlinked systems, must also be switched off or isolated.