Easy safety tips for hydraulic systems and the people who work with them.
If you’ve read our last blog, “Hydraulics 101,” you learned that we harness the power of hydraulics to fuel some of the world’s largest machines from cranes to aircrafts. With such massive machines to build and operate, it’s no surprise that they should be handled with care and caution. Without proper safety precautions, people can lose limbs, eyes, and in the worst cases, even their lives to the high-pressure and use of certain liquids (like gas) in hydraulics systems.
Thankfully, hydraulics have been for a while, so whether you operate a hydraulics system or you design or build them, there are plenty of tips and videos to ensure your safety. Here are some of our favorites:
Start with common sense.
It may seem simple, but if something is big enough to hurt someone, respect the size and the amount of pressure that’s used to power the hydraulics system. People get too comfortable with the machine they’ve been operating for years, especially if they work in rhythm and time with the machine cycles. But complacency is dangerous, and that’s when people get hurt. 1
Watch out for improper couplings.
Never mix low- and high-pressure coupler components (that is, do not connect a low-pressure component to a high-pressure system). Mismatched components may cause a rupture in a hose or fitting.
Use the proper equipment to locate pinhole leaks.
Never (italicized) use your hand to locate a leak in a hydraulic line. Because hydraulic fluid—often oil—is highly pressurized, compressed fluid released through a leak can penetrate the skin or eyes, causing severe injury, such as gangrene. Injection injuries from high-pressure hydraulic fluid require immediate medical care.
When trying to locate a leak in a hydraulic line, wear eye protection and gloves. Run a piece of paper, wood, cardboard, or Plexiglas along the hydraulic line to determine the location of the leak. Always relieve the hydraulic pressure in an operating system before detaching or attaching a hydraulic line to make necessary repairs. 2
Proper maintenance is critical for all types of machinery and equipment, but it is imperative that you follow proper safety measures when performing maintenance.
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when performing maintenance on hydraulic systems, including gloves and eye protection.
- Do not rely solely on the hydraulic lift if you must work on hydraulic components with the system raised.
- Set the working unit on blocks as a precautionary measure.
- Unless you are bleeding the hydraulic system, do not run the machine engine when you are servicing the system.
- Hydraulic fluid can be extremely hot and can cause severe burns, so let the hydraulic system cool before changing lines, connections, filters, or fittings.
If you design hydraulics, build safety right in from the beginning.
There are various techniques used in both circuit and machine design to ensure industrial hydraulic machinery is both actively and passively safe. The concepts are this: ensure no person or their limbs can enter the space being occupied by machinery capable of pinching, dismembering or killing them, and then confirm if such interaction is possible, safeguards are in place to protect him or her.