Breathing Air Standard BS EN 12021

Do you or your colleagues use any air supplied or air fed respiratory protection equipment, such as a Wilson Air Visor, 3M Versaflow or other paint hood? If so, are you certain that the air being fed into the hood is clean and safe to breath? Does it meet the required standard for air quality, BS EN 12021?

Fire Safe International offer an onsite compressed air quality testing service. One of our trained, competent technicians will visit your site and take a sample of your compressed breathing air from each outlet (if necessary). This sample will be passed through our Air Quality test equipment and analysed to ensure compliance with BS EN12021. We will even test the flow rates to ensure suitability with the RPE in use.

What is BS EN12021?

BS EN12021 sets the maximum/minimum levels for the composition of the air being supplied to a person. It is the standard that is used to test the quality of all breathing air systems, diving air or medical air. Compressed air used for breathing equipment must not contain contaminants at a harmful level or that may have a damaging effect on a persons health, long or short term. It is only by taking regular samples of air that this can be assured. It is generally considered that to test for every single harmful substance is simply not practical, so it is important that a detailed risk assessment is undertaken by a competent person and the likelihood of any contaminants evaluated.

In the UK, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (CoSHH) state clearly that any equipment being used to protect a person from a harmful substance must be tested regularly to ensure it remains effective. The frequency of testing will vary dependent on risk but is unlikely to exceed every three months, unless the equipment is removed from service for a period beyond this time. Therefore, tests for harmful substances contained within the compressed breathing air supply should be carried out at least once every 3 months unless. The results of the tests must be recorded and documented; this is so that users can verify that the air is safe to breath, as well as a means of confirming that all of the requirements have been met.

Why test breathing air to EN12021 standards?

It is imperative that compressed breathing air is tested frequently and thoroughly for possible contamination; excessive levels of Carbon Monoxide (CO), Carbon Dioxide (CO2) or oil mist could cause the user to become lightheaded, nauseous and dizzy. High levels of contaminants can be caused by saturated filters or incorrect compressor servicing; these factors would not necessarily be picked up in the initial stages of servicing, adding emphasis to the importance of testing compressed air regularly. It’s difficult to detect CO or CO2 without specialist test equipment as they cannot be smelled or tasted, even at a harmful levels; many other contaminants don’t give off any taste or odour. In addition to potential health risks, contaminated air can also create problems such as inefficient filtration which in the long run can lead to unnecessary costs. The standards provided by BS EN12021 are, as such, the only UK standards available to follow. The European standard for the quality of compressed air states that “in any event all contaminants shall be kept to as low a level as possible and shall be below the national exposure limit.”

The guidelines provided by the BS EN12021 are summarised below;

Oxygen – 21% + / – 1%
Carbon Monoxide – Low as possible not exceeding 15 ml/m3
Carbon Dioxide – Cannot exceed 500 ml/m3
Oil mist / vapour – Cannot exceed 0.5mg/m3
Odour / taste – Without significant odour or taste
Water (liquid) – Without significant odour or taste
Water (vapour) – Air for compressed air line breathing apparatus shall have a dew point sufficiently low to prevent condensation and freezing. Where apparatus is used and stored at a known temperature, the pressure dew point shall be at least 5°C below the likely lowest temperature. Where conditions of usage and storage of the air is not known, the pressure dew point shall not exceed -11°C.

Fire Safe International are able to test to all of the above requirements and beyond, providing you with an on site confirmation of breathing air quality and quantity within minutes.

Contact us now to arrange an onsite visit, or free telephone consultation.

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