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Hydraulic safety

Hydraulic systems on agricultural equipment are used for maneuvers such as lifting the buckets on skid steers or adjusting the position of combine headers. Hydraulic fluid moves through very small openings within the system and is under very high pressure that can exceed 2,000 psi. For perspective, running water from a household faucet typically measures 40 psi.

Chuck Schwab is an extension safety specialist at Iowa State University. He says one of the most common points of injury from a hydraulic system is looking for a pinhole leak. Never try to find it with your hands.

"Hydraulic fluid can be under high pressure and it can get very hot. Both of those conditions create a serious hazard for your hands," warns Schwab. "The pinhole leak in a hose is difficult to see. Plus, it allows that hydraulic fluid to leave the system under high pressure, and that very small stream of hot, hydraulic fluid can easily penetrate your skin causing infection, poisoning, and burns."

He recommends using a piece of wood or cardboard to locate the leak.

Another hazard of the hydraulic system is if you mix low-and-high-pressure couplings. This can affect connectivity and leakage.

"Leakage may not be like a pinhole leak, but the same time you’re throwing out liquid. You have a possible fire hazard, you have environmental damage," he says. "Plus, if you have a fitting that pops off, you can have the hose whipping around or part of that piece of that fitting can actually become a projectile."