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IFPS Summarizes Fluid Power Safety Guidelines

“Practice makes perfect” doesn’t apply to safety. You should always practice safety when working on or near hydraulic and pneumatic systems.

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The International Fluid Power Society (IFPS), Cherry Hill, N.J., stresses that implementation of safe procedures is paramount in all fluid power systems, the electrical and electronic controls that guide them, and all associated technologies.

IFPS warns not to operate any machinery unless you have read and understand the instructions in the operator’s guide. Improper machinery operation is dangerous and could cause injury or death.

Hydraulic Safety Guidelines for Hydraulics

Fluid injections—Fine streams of escaping pressurized fluid can penetrate the skin and, thus, enter the human body. If a fluid injection accident occurs, see a doctor immediately. Any fluid injected into the skin must be surgically removed within a few hours or gangrene may result. Do not delay treatment or treat injections as a simple cut!

Fluid spills—Clean up leakage immediately to prevent personnel from slipping and the potential for fire. Do not return any spilled fluid to the reservoir because of the contamination that can be introduced to the hydraulic system. Clean up fluid spills and associated materials and follow proper disposal procedures.

Whipping hoses—If a pressurized hose or tube assembly blows apart, the fittings can be thrown off at high speed, and the loose hose can flail or whip around with great force. Where this risk exists, consider the use of guards and hose restraints to protect against injury.

Burns from conveyed fluids—Hydraulic fluids can reach temperatures that can burn human skin. If a risk of burns exists from escaping fluid, consider using guards and shields, particularly in areas where operators are located.

IFPS SocietyFire and explosion from conveyed fluids—Most hydraulic fluids, including fire-resistant hydraulic fluids, will burn under certain conditions. As fluid escapes from a pressurized system, a mist of fine spray may be formed. The fluid may then flash or explode upon contact with an ignition source. Use area guards, hose shields, and route fluid conductors to minimize the risk of combustion.

Fire and explosion from static electric discharge—Fluid passing through fluid conductors can generate static electricity, resulting in a static electric discharge. This may create sparks that can ignite system fluids or gases in the surrounding atmosphere. When the potential of this hazard exists, select fluid conductors specifically designed to carry the static electricity charge to ground, thereby reducing the risk of injury or damage.

Electric shock and high current discharge—Electrocution could occur if hydraulic tubing conducts electricity to a person. In the case of high amperage, tubing could short the electricity to ground, which in turn could create very high fluid temperatures. Electrical wiring and hydraulic lines should be isolated by being separated and securely fastened to avoid contact between the two types.

Mechanisms controlled by hydraulics—Mechanisms controlled by fluid in tubing and hoses may become hazardous when a tube or hose fails. Objects supported by the pressurized fluid may inadvertently fall. Vehicles or machines may experience loss of power or control. Be aware of these events and learn what actions to take in case they happen.

Safety Guidelines for Pneumatics

Compressed air can be dangerous unless precautions are taken. Use eye protection, and keep proper safety guidelines displaced in a prominent place.

It is essential that a check valve and shutoff valve are fitted in the delivery line when a system’s compressor is to be coupled in parallel with another compressor or connected to an existing air supply system. In such cases, a safety valve must be provided upstream of the valves, unless one is already fitted on the compressor.

Do not use frayed, damaged or deteriorated hoses. Always store hoses properly and away from heat sources or direct sunlight. A hose failure can cause serious injury.

Use only the correct type and size of hose or tubing, fittings and connections. Ensure that tolerances on plastic tubing match the requirements of the fittings. Secure all flexible lines with clamps.

If using compressed air for cleaning equipment, do so with extreme caution. Take care not to blow dirt at people or into machinery.

When initially pressurizing a hose or air line, ensure that the open end is held securely. A free end will whip and can cause injury. Open the supply valve carefully and ensure that any ejected particles will be restrained. A blocked hose can become a compressed air gun.

Never apply compressed air to the skin or direct it at a person. It can cause serious injury.

When using compressed air for cleaning purposes, ensure that pressure at the nozzle does not exceed 30 psi. Do not use compressed air to clean dust or debris off the body or from clothing.

Do not use air directly from a compressor for breathing purposes.

If an isolating or check valve is fitted in the compressor discharge, it is essential to ensure that an adequate safety valve is in place between this isolating valve and the compressor and that the isolating valve is open.

Isolating valves should be of the self-venting type and designed to be locked in the off position so that air pressure cannot be applied inadvertently while the machine is being serviced. All lock-out/tag-out procedures should be carefully followed.

Vent all components into a non-hazardous area that is connected to the atmosphere. A concentration of oil mist in the air from system lubricators can be hazardous. Use properly sized oil removal filters at exhaust ports where necessary.

Check tubing, hoses and couplings daily before use. Use only conductors designed to handle compressed air. Provide all hose couplings with a positive locking device. Secure Chicago-type fittings together with wire or clips.

Never crimp, couple, or uncouple pressurized hose. Use shutoff valves and remove residual pressure before working on hoses.

Make sure all hoses exceeding ½-in. ID contain a velocity fuse device at the source of supply or branch line to reduce the pressure in case of hose failure.

Periodically examine the level of oil in lubricators and the fluid level in filters. Maintain proper levels at all times, and ensure that lubricators are filled with the proper type of lubricant.

For more information on fluid power safety and IFPS certification programs, call (800) 308-6005, email [email protected], or visit

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