Hydraulic injection injuries caused by high-pressure fluid injection are relatively rare – they are reported to account for only one in 600 traumatic hand injuries – but those that do occur frequently result in serious injury.
High pressure injection injuries are caused by fluid such as water, paint, grease or hydraulic oil being injected into and under a person's skin at very high pressure, usually into the hand. The high pressure can result in the fluid moving deeper into the body but leaving only limited surface damage – often only minor discolouration – yet causing serious health implications in deeper tissue if left untreated.
There are many possible causes of high pressure fluid injection injuries, from leaking hydraulic hoses, to split air pipes or grease guns. Most typically, this type of injury is suffered by workers in the mining or agricultural industries. However, any worker who pressure tests, or operates and maintains hydraulic systems is at risk of high pressure fluid injection. Even the smallest of pinpricks in pipe work can result in serious damage.
Any worker who uses the following types of vehicle and machinery is at heightened risk of a high pressure fluid injection injury:
- Loaders, forklifts or telehandlers
- Combine, beet and potato harvesters
- Box fillers, trailers and bale handlers
- Firewood processors, post drivers and log splitters
The consequences of high pressure fluid injection can be serious and treatment is often invasive, and may require major surgery or even amputation.
Hydraulic injury, some causes
Hydraulic injury most often occurs as a result of an equipment failure. If this failure was a result of employer negligence then it may be possible to claim compensation. Such failures tend to be categorised in the two following ways:
- Functional failure – equipment ceases to function as a result of catastrophic component failure. This type of equipment failure is responsible for only a minority of workplace hydraulic injuries
- Material failure – a small leak occurs but the operation remains functional in some way. For example, seal failure, fatigue cracking, pin holing in hoses or bulk material cracking
Operator error is another common cause of hydraulic injury. Typical examples of operator error include the following:
- Looking for leaks with bare hands
- Incorrect pipe couplings or inadequate repairs
- Failure to replace damaged hoses
- Failure to release pressure during repair or maintenance
Thompsons, a leading personal injury firm in Scotland
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