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How Safe are Hydraulic Power Units?

Hydraulic power units typically carry fluids which are exposed to high pressures and some units can generate high sound levels during use; so is it safe to work with these systems?

There have been many safety precautions issued in the past regarding areas of a hydraulic power unit that could pose a potential health and safety risk to both operators of the units and service personnel. These include risk of injury of burns from touching a hot hydraulic power unit whilst it is in operation or one of its components; fluid injection injuries and injuries to hearing due to working in too close proximity to a unit for a length of time.

The main health and safety hazards of a hydraulic unit have been highlighted below:

Unit Heat risks – When the unit is in operation its working temperature can reach levels of up to 110°C which could cause burns if touched, so it is essential that a guard or other method of operator protection is installed around the unit as to eliminate these risks. Likewise, if the unit is to be worked on or maintenance carried out it should be turned off and allowed to cool before any parts are touched.

The risk of a hydraulic power unit overheating is also a very real problem, and in this situation the unit must be turned off as soon as possible as to avoid potential system damage and possibility of injuries to workers.

Hydraulic Fluid Injuries – Hydraulic fluid is stored in a system at pressures of up to around 2,000 pounds per square inch. At these pressures it is essential that all hoses and pipework are secure and free from leaks.

A potentially serious injury that could occur from pressurised hydraulic fluid coming into contact with skin is known as a fluid injection injury. These are typically gained when somebody is running their hand along a rubber hose while a system is operational to try to locate a split or leaking hose. Once their finger rubs over a leaking hose they may just feel a slight sting and many people just shrug this off and carry on. If this happens it is vital to get to an A E as soon as possible so the wound can be treated as if left, the potential for finger or even arm amputation is very possible due to infection and poisoning from hydraulic fluid.

Unit Noise – When a hydraulic power unit is operational it can generate 65+ decibels and if a worker is working in close proximity to the power unit at levels over this sound rating approaching 80 decibels for a prolonged period of time, hearing could potentially be affected, so if this is the case then ear plugs are strongly recommended and should be made compulsory as a matter of course for the health and safety of workers.

To find out more information about how to run your hydraulic power unit in a safe and efficient way, check out our Knowledge Base.


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