People can become exposed to the chemicals in hydraulic fluids. The exposure to chemicals may be due to inhalation, ingestion, or touch. There are instances of people suffering from skin irritation or weakness in hands while handling hydraulic fluids.
Similar to ingestion, fluids can be accidentally injected into the skin as well. This takes place when the high-pressure hydraulic system hose is disconnected and toxic fluids are leaked and injected into the skin. If there is a small leak in the hydraulic pipe and someone runs their hand along it, at 2000 psi, they can easily incur an injection of hydraulic fluid and may not even be aware that it happened until gangrene begins to set in. This is what has happened to a person who was searching for the source of a small hydraulic leak.
A person was searching for the source of a small hydraulic leak on a drilling rig. The leak was located and a request was made for the hydraulic pump to be shut down so that the damaged hose could be replaced. The pump was duly shut down. Then the person involved placed his index finger (whilst wearing double gloves) over the damaged spot on the hose so as not to lose the location of the leak.
The hydraulic pressure remained on the system following shutdown of the pump and this pressure had actually increased for around two seconds after the pump shut down (owing to back pressure). Hydraulic fluid burst through the damaged spot on the hose and was injected through the double gloves into the person’s index finger.
Surgery was required to find and remove the injected oil from the finger and hand of the person.
Reasons for injury:
- The person was unaware that hydraulic pressure(back pressure) remained on the system.
- Hydraulics is not a recognised safety hazard.
- The person was not trained about the risks associated with working with pressurised hydraulic fluid.
- Never begin work on a hydraulic system until fully trained.
- Always use safety glasses.
- Always use carboards to check for leaks.
- Block, secure or lower to the ground components that may move, rotate or fall.
- Relieve system pressures. (Note: Some systems use accumulators that store pressure. Identify the system before working on it.)
- Do not work under equipment/apparatus being supported by hydraulics. Stops, safety pins, etc. must be in place prior to beginning repairs.