Understanding hydraulic risks and preventing accidents

Have you ever wondered what might happen if you do not follow the safety instructions required in the hydraulic field?

You might say “yes”, but are you sure if you are really ready to start a system with confidence?

Can you imagine that a pressurized component bursts a few centimeters from you? I will not make schemas, you have already understood I think…

It is therefore very important to take advised precautions of use.

What about limiting the risks?

Let me list the main causes of accidents:

  1. Non-compliance with preventive maintenance
  2. Hydraulic products defects
  3. Micro-leakage of oil under pressure which is not visible to the naked eye
  4. A component breakage or a hose bursting
  5. Repeated movements of different elements of the machine

The list is not exhaustive!

There is no such thing as zero-risk although the equipment used is of very good quality. The respect of the security instructions takes on its full meaning here. Each user must have a safe and adopted approach to the use of hydraulic systems.

You may be burned or suffer bruises, cuts or abrasions, even worse, a septicemia due to an injection of high-pressure oil. If this happens, take it seriously even if you do not feel pain. You do not have the magic regeneration powers of Deadpool. You should ask for medical advice immediately.

I advise you to follow these tips to operate a hydraulic system without danger.

It is highly recommended to use safety helmet, glasses, gloves, safety shoes and work uniform once you are close to a system.

Be careful when you are close to pressure taps, quick couplings and hoses when they are under pressure, especially if the device does not appear to comply with safety standards. A coupling can be ejected from its housing at the same speed as a bullet; the hoses can suddenly turn into a sword…

Trust me that you are not reading a thrilling story and I think you would not like to suffer the severe links.

In addition to personal protective equipment (PPE) we should carry out periodic inspections on hydraulic systems.

Preventive maintenance ensures your safety

The frequency of inspections is varied according to diverse systems. This means it is imperative to consult your manual and follow the recommendations of the manufacturer. Mobile or stationary equipments require a technical control every 3 months for example.

And the following factors will also have an impact on control frequency of your hydraulic systems:

  • Storage condition
  • External influences
  • Components integrated
  • Working pressure
  • Frequency of use

In general, maintenance and control have to be done on three levels (you can do the same for a hydraulic training bench):

  • Carry out a few simple daily checks to avoid problems: oil level, leak free for connections, clogging filters, hoses defects, hydraulic piping and connections, noise issued by the pump and screws tightening …
  • Then program a routine maintenance: control of all filter elements, components, oil condition
  • Finally perform a complete report: cleaning or replacement of defective devices and circuit draining.

The above information is only a preventive maintenance overview. In addition, for purpose of reducing the failure risk, it is highly recommended to select components and other devices that meet compulsory security standards in EU countries from 29/05/2002.

Precautions for use in hydraulics

Hydraulic safety standards are not insignifiant

The above mentioned standards are legislated in the European Machinery Safety Directive 98/37/CE. They comply with the safety requirements of hydraulic hoses: ISO 12100 / EN 292 and EN 982.

But what does that mean exactly?

  • ISO 12100 / EN 292: Basics and standards for design principles.
  • EN 982: Manufacturer and manufacturing date of hoses affixed to ensure a respected pulse testing (cyclic endurance test).

All hoses equipped with our hydraulic training bench comply with the standards and meet a superior level of requirements: We have chosen hoses designed to ensure optimum quality and long service life. They are covered with a “jet breaker” protection firmly secured with an anti-burst cable. All installation specifications are respected for safety work.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Keep a minimum radius of curvature and a little slack. A hose loses its flexibility when it is pressurized. Its durability will be less affected.
  • Avoid twisting and bending the hoses. Don’t forget to use the clamps & brackets and a right-angle adaptor.

Not only yet that, the hydraulic non-return valves we can find on hoses or cylinders, ensure an only one-direction of fluid flow. Correspondingly, the sealing is therefore guaranteed and the mechanical action of the actuator is effectively in the desired direction.

As for the accumulators, they must be secured with a clamp. Above all, it is forbidden to work on a hydraulic circuit without prior awareness, decompression and depressurizing verification. The latter must be set up with a safety and shut-off block to release the pressure.

Finally, it is necessary to supervise couplings and pressure taps. You may be injured in case of leaks. The circuit may be polluted if the plug is not correctly screwed off after use.

Be careful, the pollution of one circuit can have significant consequences.

An unpolluted system => a system in good condition

Particulate contamination level found in circuits and components has an impact on the performance of hydraulic systems. The cleanliness level of the pipes is, however, often underestimated.

Proceeding with a decontamination of the circuit, you could:

  • improve production
  • reduce breakdowns by 70%
  • limit security risks
  • cut maintenance costs …
  • and so on …

And there is one thing we often forget: New oil is already polluted!

What will be the advantages?

By following all the instructions and regulations, you know how to act, how to identify component failures, and how to reduce the potential risks.

Some positive effects in terms of prevention:

  • More fluid use
  • Minimize downtime of equipment
  • Longer service life
  • Prevention of work-related risks
  • Less costly investment
  • Reduction in safety-related accidents

What you learned today?

The security principals apply on both hydraulic systems and training benches.

You have learned today the most common causes of accidents, how to protect yourself and especially how to avoid risks with usual precautions and preventive maintenance. You also understood the financial impact of a security program.

By regularly checking the physical condition of your systems, you will considerably reduce the repair costs and will no longer suffer production shutdowns.

It is highly recommended to increase hydraulic security awareness of your colleagues and students.

Kindly do not hesitate to share this article with everyone who is interested in this subject.

See you soon!

Written by Mickaël Langlais

Industrial Director at ID System, I help training professionals define their didactic equipment needs. I carry out a technological watch in order to design tomorrow’s pedagogical equipment. Let’s be proactive on a changing marketplace.

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