Posted by Dan Clark, CECD
Hydraulic and diesel fuel systems on forestry and construction machines operate at very high pressure, ranging from 600 psi to 12,000 psi. A loose connection or hose defect could result in a high velocity stream of fluid that can penetrate human skin as if it were a hypodermic needle. Skin penetration can occur up to 4” away from the fluid source.
An accidental fluid injection beneath the skin might only initially produce a slight stinging sensation. There is a danger in ignoring this type of incident, thinking it will get better in time; most often, it won’t. The fluid injection wound may begin to throb painfully within a short time, indicating that tissue damage has already begun. Fluid injected directly into a blood vessel can spread quickly throughout the body. The human body has little ability to purge these types of fluid.
A fluid injection can become very serious or even fatal if not dealt with promptly and properly. Left untreated by a medical doctor, familiar with this type of injury, fluid injection can result in disfigurement or amputation of the affected body part.
Employers using these machines should create an emergency plan to follow should this type of injury occur to a member of your crew. The best defense against suffering the effects of fluid injection is to prevent the accident from occurring in the first place. Following are a few safety precautions:
- Never grab any hydraulic or diesel fuel connectors or hoses under pressure.
- Stop the engine and safely relieve all pressures before working on a line.
- Keep all body parts well away from the area of suspected leak.
- Never search for leaks with your hands or other body parts.
- Recognize that heavy gloves or your clothing may not protect you from a fluid injection.
- Be sure to wear safety goggles.
- Use a long piece of wood or steel to move hoses when redirecting a fluid stream before line pressure can be eliminated.