About work in compressed air

There are various types of health problem (decompression illness) which can be caused by working in compressed air. The most common are:

  • decompression sickness, an acute condition which occurs most commonly in compressed air work as pains around the joints (often referred to as Type 1 Decompression Sickness or known colloquially as "The Bends" or "Niggles" if less severe). It also occurs more rarely as a serious and potentially life-threatening condition which affects the central nervous system (often referred to as Type 2 Decompression Sickness),
  • barotrauma, where a change in surrounding pressure causes direct damage to those air-containing cavities in the body which are connected with the surrounding atmosphere, principally the ears and sinuses; and,
  • dysbaric osteonecrosis, which is a long-term, chronic condition damaging the long bone (hip or shoulder) joints.

Contact details

Notification of work in compressed air, requests for information or advice on a specific job you are involved with should be directed to your local HSE office.

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Updated 2021-08-04