Maintenance Worker's Death Prompts HSE Alert

The worker was using a hand-powered grease gun to tension the track of a piling rig when the nipple connecting the grease gun to the track mechanism detached, permitting the grease to release, injecting him.

Following a maintenance worker’s death, Britain's Health and Safety Executive issued a Safety Alert on Sept. 23 warning hydraulics engineers and maintenance workers in construction, quarrying, tunneling, and engineering about the risks of hydraulic injection injuries. The alert says initial findings from an HSE investigation has found the maintenance fitter was using a hand-powered grease gun to tension the track of a piling rig when the nipple connecting the grease gun to the track mechanism detached, permitting the grease (under significant stored energy) to release, injecting him.

A hydraulic injection injury occurs when the outer layer of skin is broken by a jet of fluid under pressure. "Although serious reported instances of hydraulic injection have occurred at pressures over 100 bar (1450 psi), anecdotal evidence suggests hydraulic injection injury may occur at pressures as low as 7 bar (101.5psi)," according to the alert. "Injection injury often results from a failure of a component in the mechanical system. This can result in the equipment remaining in use and pressurized whilst leaking fluid." This results in trauma to underlying tissue and the introduction of toxic fluid into the injured person's body.

"Following any injection injury, prompt action is essential to save the injured persons limb, or even life. Without medical treatment, after four-six hours the victim may experience intense throbbing pain that is unresponsive to pain medication. Without proper care, injection injuries can lead to amputation of affected parts," it states.

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