Many hydraulic fluids are combustible when used under high pressure. Pressurised fluid in hydraulic systems presents a considerable fire hazard, particularly where ignition sources are present.
A release of hydraulic fluid under high pressure can create an atomised spray or mist that could be readily ignited by hot surfaces, flames or electrical arcs.
Risk control measures
To minimise the risks when using hydraulic fluids:
- ensure all hoses are rated above the maximum operating pressure
- ensure all hoses are installed as per manufacturer’s instruction
- conduct regular inspection of all hydraulic components for signs of wear, damage, corrosion, abrasion, kinking and leakage and replace as necessary
- replace any hose that has exceeded service life (refer to hose manufacturer specifications)
- ensure that any potential ignition source is suitably shielded from direct hydraulic fluid spray
- release any stored energy in the hydraulic system prior to performing inspection or maintenance work
- consider the flammability of hydraulic fluid used in plant (refer to Safety Data Sheet)
- conduct a hazard ID and risk assessment on plant, considering the type of work performed, environment and remoteness of work
- in the event of a burst hydraulic hose, or where leakage is observed, consider the procedure of immediately shutting down the plant to avoid the further release of fluid and seek inspection by a competent person
- in the event of a fire or explosion, ensure that appropriate controls and an emergency evacuation procedure are in place for the safe evacuation of plant operator and passengers
- ensure that the plant is fitted with an appropriate fire suppression system which is routinely inspected and tested by a competent person.
When using hydraulic fluids the hose attachments can pose significant risks.
Ensure the hose:
- does not exceed the maximum rating during continuous operation at pressures
- is not subjected to excessive pressure surges
- has not aged beyond its service life
- is correctly routed or supported
- is free of crimping around hose connectors
- is installed correctly and free of twists
- is not bent below the recommended minimum radius
- is free of wear and tear
- reinforcement is free of corrosion
- is not exposed to high-temperature surfaces.