Staying in compliance with air tank compressors

Dentists should make sure that their air tanks and compressors meet the requirements under state law.

California requires a permit for any air tank that is 1.5 cubic feet in volume or larger, or when the safety valve is set greater than 150 psi. A permit is valid for five years.

Dentists can have inspectors from the Cal/OSHA Pressure Vessel Unit conduct safety checks on tanks and compressors for the purpose of issuing and renewing permits. (They do not inspect the workplace for compliance with other Cal/OSHA regulations.)

The cost is typically $160 per hour for an inspection, travel and administration. The inspection should not interfere with the normal operations of a dental office.

Inspectors use an ultrasonic device to measure thickness of the steel and compare it with the information on the nameplate. If the drain and dryer on a compressor are not working properly, the steel on the tank can rust. Inspectors ensure the tank, compressor and all of its parts function. They also ensure the safety relief valve, manual drain and pressure gauge are present and functioning and check for leaking, cracked or defective tanks. They also confirm there are no electrical problems.

Each tank permit is $15 for a term of five years. Inspections can be scheduled by calling the Northern California office in Oakland at 510.622.3066, or Southern California office in Santa Ana at 714.567.7208, of the Cal/OSHA Pressure Vessel Unit. The Pressure Vessel Unit does send out letters confirming a business’ request for inspection. This letter is adequate proof of intent to comply with the regulation, should a business be inspected by Cal/OSHA Enforcement staff.

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