When it comes to hydraulic hose systems safety is imperative. But safety involves more than the operation of hydraulic hose systems, however. The safety process also includes the selection and maintenance of the hoses. Safe hydraulic hoses are critical given the roles they play. Hoses are connected to a power-distributing cylinder. A hose failure can lead to accidents including injuries from a bucket on a loader failing. The consequences are exceptionally high in situations involving high-lift applications.

To many, creating a safe work environment through maintaining hydraulic hoses is common sense. Be that as it may, the best way to keep a safe work environment and avoid accidents is refreshing employees on the basics including hose maintenance routines, leak prevention, contamination, and temperature/pressure ratings. Adequately considering these factors can go a long way in providing a safe work environment.

Safety and Maintenance Tips

1) Create a maintenance routine

The first step to proper maintenance is keeping a regular inspection routine. Inspecting hoses each month will assist with catching hose failures and other issues before they can lead to a catastrophic outcome. Strictly following a maintenance schedule may not come second nature to some, but continually inspecting hoses will limit downtime and repair costs in the long run. It’s worth remembering that a well-maintained hydraulic system will have a longer lifespan.

One efficient way to build a maintenance routine is through an asset tagging and ID system. These systems can help a business cut repair downtime by increasing the ease of access to hydraulic assembly information. The basis of this system is a unique ID code assigned to each hose or part. This identification system allows for streamlined repairs. Asset tagging and ID systems also include reporting tools that can enhance maintenance efforts.

QUICK TIP: Always review federal, state, and local regulations before cleaning an oil spill.

2) Don’t ignore signs of leakage

Make no mistake; external hose leakage is always a sign of a problem. These leaks also represent a higher expense than just repair and downtime. If the leak of hydraulic oil is large enough, you can expect fines from OSHA and the EPA on top of the other costs. That doesn’t take into account the potential for lawsuits. Oil spilled on the floor can lead to employees slipping and falling in the oil spill. Furthermore, it’s possible pressurized hoses, valve seals, and threaded pipe connectors can rupture and cause an injury. The oil itself is its own risk given how flammable the substance is. This risk is even higher in environments with ignition sources constantly present.

3) Replace hoses when they wear down

It’s possible to identify potentially dangerous hoses before disaster strikes. The best practice is to inspect hoses for cracks, tears, twisting, bends, or abrasions. The cover of the hose is designed to protect the sturdier wire reinforcements from environmental hazards including the weather or sharp objects. Once the cover wears down and is breached the risk of rapid deterioration in the integrity of the hose increases. Unlike the cover, the wire reinforcements are much more susceptible irritants like rocks and sharp objects. What’s more, wire reinforcements can rust and crumble when exposed to water. Reviewing each hose for twists is the first step in preventing this type of damage. It is also critical to inspect the connection at each coupling. If there is seeping leaking out of the coupling, it’s possible there is damage that is causing that redistribution of pressure. Finally, some environments are naturally abrasive. The best answer to these circumstances are hoses with covers designed to withstand severe abrasions.

4) Prevent contamination through proper cleaning

Contamination within a hydraulic hose is as critical of an issue as damage to its exterior. It’s necessary to properly clean all hydraulic equipment after each use. Hoses that aren’t properly cleaned can experience a buildup of debris. During future use the hydraulic fluid can carry the debris through the hose, damaging the interior tube and leading to a breached hose assembly. Thankfully, a hydraulic hose can be cleaned using a hose cleaning kit. These kits flush pellets through the hose to force out any contaminant. Once cleaned it is recommended to seal the caps of the hose before transporting them. External dirt and debris can be harmful not only to the inner tube but also the cylinder that powers the hydraulic system. Dirt entering cylinders or valves can be catastrophic and require replacement of the entire system.

5) Maintain the appropriate fluid temperature

The fluid within a hose needs to be kept at the temperature specified by the hose manufacturer. Every hose has a temperature rating displayed on the layline. Fluid that overheats above the recommended temperature range can lead to cracks in the inner tube. These cracks can lead to leaks and a loss of flexibility.

QUICK TIP: A hose that is too hot to touch is likely overheated beyond the safe temperature range as prescribed by the manufacturer.

6) Adhere to pressure limits

Much like with the temperature ratings, each hose also has a maximum hydraulic pressure rating. It is critical that the internal hydraulic pressure not exceed the pressure ratings as prescribed by the manufacturer. Exceeding the pressure rating can lead to a shortened hose life.

7) Perform a hose failure analysis

If, after a maintenance schedule is enacted, a hose still fails it is worth determining the exact cause. There’s no way to go back in time and prevent the failure, but it may be possible to eliminate future failures. Correcting the root problem that led to the hose failure can mitigate future losses and save both time and money.