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A Cautionary Tale – Hydraulic Fluid Injection ben lee

One very important reason for a stringent hydraulic maintenance plan is that hydraulic hose failure can lead to the injection of hydraulic fluid into a person, which can be life threatening if not treated immediately.  The average time between this injury occurring and medical attention is around 9 hours, which is often due to the victim taking a long time to realise the seriousness of what has happened.  Worryingly, when the time elapsed between injury and medical care is ten hours or above, there is almost a one hundred percent chance of amputation.

Hydraulic injection injuries often feel and look, initially at least, like a pin prick, which is why so many people fail to seek immediate medical attention.  Within a couple of hours, the velocity at which the fluid entered, coupled with the highly toxic nature of most hydraulic oils causes the tissue to die, starting at the point of entry and travelling toward the centre of the body at a rapid rate.  Even water injected at high pressure can cause horrific swelling and tissue death; so even if the fluid itself is not hazardous, the method of injection causes just as much damage as the toxicity of the oil that may enter the flesh.  Emergency surgery is required to rectify the injury and to save the limb.

It is vital that all staff working around hydraulics equipment, in any capacity, are made aware of this risk and that this information is displayed clearly in the workplace and is also included in health and safety manuals and new employee handbooks.  At no point should any chances be taken with injection injuries, as they can be fatal if blood poisoning develops.

In the event of a hydraulic injection injury, the victim should be transported to A&E as quickly as possible.  If an ambulance is called the hospital will know what they are about to receive; but if the patient is taken by car, it is a good idea to call ahead and let the hospital know, so they can see the patient as quickly as possible on arrival.  The exact time of the injury should be noted, and the hydraulic fluid identified.  If a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is available this should be taken to hospital with the patient so the doctors know what they are dealing with.  For this reason alone it is worth keeping up to date MSDS data to hand, although there are many other good reasons for keeping this information current and accessible.

It may be the case that staff on duty at A&E has not dealt with such an injury before, as they are much less common than a sprain, cut or fracture.  If they do not seem to realise the severity of the situation, make sure you inform them that this is a life threatening injury that can deteriorate very quickly.  If needs be, show them some information from the internet (such as this blog post), so they can do their own research on the subject and treat the injury as quickly as possible.

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