While working in proximity to potentially dangerous components of plant, workers should not rely on hydraulic systems to maintain those components in a safe position. There should be positive protection from gravitational hazards.

Safety issues

Fatal or serious crush injuries can result from normal movement of the hydraulic equipment, and when the hydraulic systems fail, falling loads or unexpected moving parts are extremely dangerous. Plant arms or equipment can cause injury through rapid or slow movement without the worker being aware of the danger.

Plant is a major cause of workplace death and injury in Australian workplaces. There are significant risks associated with using plant and severe injuries can result from the unsafe use of plant, including:

  • limbs amputated by unguarded moving parts
  • being crushed by mobile plant
  • sustaining fractures from falls while accessing, operating or maintaining plant
  • electric shock from plant that is not adequately protected or isolated
  • burns or scalds due to contact with hot surfaces, or exposure to flames or hot fluids.

Other risks include hearing loss due to noisy plant and musculoskeletal disorders caused by manually handling or operating plant that is poorly designed.

Risk control measures

PCBUs must ensure all plant is safe and inspected and maintained by a competent person in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations.

A safe system of work should be implemented to manage the risks associated with inspection and maintenance of plant. The manufacturer’s instructions should be included in a safe work procedure on how inspection and maintenance should be carried out. PCBUs must also provide information, training and instruction to a worker that is suitable and adequate to:

  • the nature of the work to be carried out by the worker
  • the nature of the risks associated with the work (at the time the information, training or instruction is provided)
  • the control measures implemented to deal with these risks.

When inspecting, maintaining or operating any plant that uses hydraulic power:

  • always read the instructions provided by the manufacturer and follow all safety directions
  • never place yourself or others in a position where you could be crushed in the event of hydraulics failure or inadvertent operation of the hydraulics
  • carry out inspection/maintenance with the attachment lowered
  • use manufacturers lock pins or engineered designed stands/props to support the attachment.
  • if a back-up safety system is provided on the plant, ensure it has been correctly installed and always in use before entering a high-risk zone
  • if a safety system is not provided on the plant, make sure you use another system that is specified by the manufacturer and is load rated and has adequate strength to safely withstand any loads that could be applied to it
  • ensure workers working on, near or under hydraulics are adequately trained and supervised.

Further information

How to manage work health and safety risks - Code of Practice

Managing the risks of plant in the workplace - Code of Practice

Hydraulic fluid and fittings

Hydraulics safety - Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Acknowledgement: SafeWork SA would like to thank Workplace Health and Safety Queensland for the base source of information.