Fatal Facts - Hydraulic Pressure and the Dangers


There are four fatal conditions that high pressure hydraulic can create.  


1. Injection Injuries

2. Dangerous properties of fluid (toxic)

3. Contact with hot fluid

4. Other material movement (explosion, whipping hose, etc.)


What is a high pressure Injection Injury?


High pressurized fluid can be released from a very small opening. It punctures and penetrates the skin and body tissue. A pinhole leak in a hydraulic hose that’s under pressure can release toxic fluid at a speed of 600 feet per second. Injected substance passes rapidly thru the subcutaneous tissue and enters the tendons and deep spaces of hand/body. Penetration recorded in distances of up to four inches between fluid source and skin.


To describe how much hydraulic pressure can be dangers, we presented an injection injury incident provided by Shell.


Hydraulic Injection caused a pinprick intrusion to the injured person’s hand.

       Hydraulic fluid in use was a mineral oil

       Pressure of fluid was 630 Bar (approx 9,150 PSI)

       Equipment in use: scissor cutters used at road traffic accidents to release occupants.

       Location of accident: fire service training ground

       Risk assessments were in place and full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was worn.








       Training session under controlled conditions within Brigade Training Premises

       Injured person was to cut through sample vehicle using scissors.

       Normal practise at time was for the hydraulic hose to be run over operators shoulder to tool in use.

       Hose ruptured at ferrule area resulting in release of fluid through PPE (Leather gauntlets) to injured person’s hand.






What Happened Next

       Injured person went to Accident & Emergency (A&E) and initial prognosis was “keep clean and rest”.

       By chance a specialist observed and intervened.

       Mineral Oil had already started to “eat away” fatty tissues in hand and began travelling through the hand and up the arm.

       Injured person had 5 operations to cut away oil deposits and was on his last chance before losing arm. It was successful

       Wound could not be sutured due to tissue damage by oil so wound was gradually closed over weeks.







       Injured person was eventually medically discharged from force and is severely disabled in this hand.

       Injured person awaits final outcome

       Timescale: 2 years and counting


How to Avoid Injection Injuries


       Don’t “crack” high pressure connectors or lines to “check” for pressure and/or flow

       To check a hose for leaks while pressurized, run a piece of cardboard or paper along the hose, wear gloves, long sleeves, and safety glasses

       Shut down all equipment when looking for leaks

       Relieve pressures (Hose, etc.)

       Check to ensure pressure relieved

       Deactivation the source of power to zero energy




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