Heavy duty work has been made easy, thanks to the invention of hydraulic equipment. These machinery has seen labour becoming an easy burden and done faster. However, it is essential that while hydraulic machines take care of the hard work, companies take care of the machinery and the safety of those around it before and while it is in operation.

Hydraulic equipment is machinery and tools that use liquid fluid power to do simple work with heavy equipment being a common example. In this equipment, hydraulic fluid is transmitted throughout the machine to various hydraulic motors and hydraulic cylinders and which becomes pressurised according to the resistance present.

The fluid is controlled directly or automatically by control valves and distributed through hoses and tubes. All these vital components need a constant check as their non-functionality can lead to leakages and many other complications which may lead to accidents. Cracked tube and hoses may lead to leakages as well as loose valves, which need to be checked if they are firmly fitted. A risk assessment should take every component into consideration no matter how small as all they all play an essential role.

It is essential that before any operation, machines are checked if they have good oil. There are only two conditions that mandate a hydraulic oil change, degradation of the base oil or depletion of the additive package. Changing hydraulic oil based on hours in service, without any reference to the actual condition of the oil, is like shooting in the dark. Oil changing must be done every two to six months or after every 500 or 1,000 hours of operation, depending on the equipment’s duty cycle, operating environment, and how critical it is to overall operation. If you continue to operate with the base oil degraded or additives depleted, you compromise the service life of every other component in the hydraulic system. The only way to know when the oil needs to be changed is through oil analysis. Oil can be sent to a laboratory for analysis or companies can invest in their own diagnostic equipment and train their personnel as to how to test oil. However, test labs still prove valuable for running multiple tests, interpreting results, troubleshooting, and recommending appropriate action.

A risk assessment should see to it that not just any oil is used but the right hydraulic oil for the right machine is used. Not only is hydraulic oil a lubricant, it is also the means by which power is transferred throughout the hydraulic system. It's this dual role which makes viscosity the most important property of the oil, because it affects both machine performance and service life. Using the wrong oil not only results in lubrication damage and premature failure of major components, it also increases power consumption.

A similar situation applies to hydraulic filters. Any analysis should be conducted on the condition of filters regularly. This requires a mechanism to monitor the restriction to flow (pressure drop) across the filter element and alerts you when this point is reached. A better solution is continuous monitoring of pressure drop across the filter. Ensure filters are in the right locations and that they are not changed either too early or too late. Changing them early, before all their dirt-holding capacity is used up is wasting money on unnecessary filter changes. If you change them late, after the filter has gone on bypass, the increase in particles in the oil quietly reduces the service life of every component in the hydraulic system, costing a lot more in the long run and risking the lives of those using the machinery.

After determining the basic safety of the machinery, it is essential to assess the environment where hydraulic equipment operations take place. The environment should be clear and unobstructed and safety signs should be mounted to caution those who may come in the direction of the operation. Such signs should specify restriction distance from machinery especially if it is under operation as the dangers of moving parts of equipment and distance which they can move should not be under-estimated. Also, the operators should be encouraged to use their Personal Protective Equipment and even those working in the vicinity of the machinery such as safety helmets to protect them from items that may accidental fall during operation. Those working in the vicinity of an operation can wear reflector jackets and vests so that they are visible to the equipment operator to avoid injuring them. Operating without PPE and in a congested environment will only see incidents and injuries being achieved.

Not having enough knowledge on hydraulics and training on how to use the equipment is a huge disadvantage. If you own, operate, repair or maintain hydraulic equipment and you aren't aware of the latest hydraulic equipment maintenance practices, a lot of money can slip through your fingers.

Posted date: 25th Nov 2014
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