The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Compressed Air Testing Bad Idea

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Whenever possible, pressure test equipment using water (hydrostatic test) or another non-hazardous liquid.

Water is a non-compressible fluid, and water at a given pressure contains a lot less energy than a compressed gas such as air. 

Think about the difference in the sound of bursting a balloon filled with water compared to one filled with air. 

The air filled balloon “pops”, but the water filled balloon does not make much noise.

Before you start a pressure test, think about the consequences if a failure occurs. 

Take precautions so that people are not at risk during the test. 

Remember that it is a test – what happens if the equipment fails the test?

Do not rely on valves only to isolate equipment being tested from other equipment that is not strong enough to withstand the test pressure. 

Provide positive isolation with blinds or physical disconnection of piping.

Use an approved written pressure testing procedure, and follow it rigorously.

Post warning signs and restrict access to places where pressure testing is being done.

Make sure that people who are not directly involved in the test are not allowed in the area for any reason.

If you must use pressurized gas for a test, do a thorough safety review before conducting the test.
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