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High-pressure hydraulic fluid safety

When operating heavy equipment there is the remote possibility of high-pressure hydraulic fluid jetting out from a cracked or punctured line. If this occurs, never try to stop the leak, but immediately turn off the equipment and call for service.

Hydraulic_control_pad_with_valvesA recent video by the Fluid Power Safety Institute tells the tale of a mechanic who accidently had a finger exposed to high-pressure hydraulic fluid. To the mechanic, it felt as though he had been stabbed by a thin piece of wire. Although he went to an emergency room soon after the incident, the ER staff did not correctly diagnose the injury. That night, the mechanic awoke in excruciating pain and immediately returned to the ER with a swollen hand. The hydraulic fluid had deeply penetrated his finger’s muscles and shut down the flow of blood to the area. In the movie, the mechanic had one of his fingers removed.

While this fictional story illustrates the dangers of high-pressure fluid, an experiment was conducted by an equipment manufacturer in which a stream of hydraulic oil at 3,000 psi was directly aimed at a welding glove. Results showed the fluid stream penetrated a welding glove three out of five times.

Technicians working in equipment shops or from field service trucks are at risk for high-pressure injection injuries not only from hydraulic systems, but fuel systems, paint guns and pressure washers. Heavy equipment operators are also at risk if they attempt to stop a leak while the equipment is still operating. If hydraulic oil or other toxic fluids are injected into a hand or forearm, the fluid can cause tissue to die and, if left untreated, can result in severe infection, and damage to tendons, arteries, blood vessels and muscles.

Only technicians that are wearing proper personal protective equipment – safety glasses, a full-face shield, and gloves – should work on equipment with a suspected hydraulic or pressurized fuel leak. Hydraulic systems can retain pockets of high pressure, even after the pump shuts down and control levers are cycled to dissipate residual pressure. Only continue repairs after it has been de-energized and residual pressure in the hydraulic or fuel system has been reduced to safe levels.

Remember, high-pressure fluid leaks are a serious matter. If an operator detects a leak, the equipment should be immediately turned off and a technician called for repair.

Neff Rental provides 24/7 service and support for all of its equipment. Our maintenance system ensures that hoses are checked for leaks, fluids are at factory specified pressures and levels, and the equipment is safe to operate before it is delivered to a job site. For more information about Neff Rental, visit, or call 888-709-NEFF.

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