High pressure fluid injection hazards

Fluid released from a hydraulic system can be injected under the skin and lead to injury which may need amputation or major surgery. Even pinprick punctures in pipework can cause major injury.

Types of machine

Agricultural machines fitted with hydraulic systems include:

  • Loaders, telehandlers, forklifts
  • Combine, potato and beet harvesters
  • Trailers, bale handling equipment and box fillers
  • Firewood processors, log splitters and post drivers

Operator error

  • Searching for leaks with bare hands
  • Using incorrect pipe couplings and makeshift repairs
  • Failing to replace damaged hoses
  • Failure to release pressure during repair or maintenance

Design points

  • Include over-pressure protection in systems.
  • Provide hose burst valves if there is a risk of injury from component failure.
  • Consider the layout of components for maintenance, adjustment and setting purposes.
  • Provide shut-off and drain valves or similar features to allow maintenance to be carried out safely.
  • Provide check valves and mechanical supports for hydraulic equipment that are easy to use from outside the danger area
  • Position hydraulic components and pipework behind guards, or away from areas where people may be driving or working.
  • Where access is required, eg for maintenance and setting, use interlocking guards instead of fixed guards.

Operator instructions and training

Instructions for using this type of machinery must include clear guidance on:

  • How to remove pressure and carry out maintenance safely
  • Keeping guards in position
  • Specifications for replacement parts and repairs
  • Relevant training, eg Lantra qualification and accreditation.

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