October 2015

Letter to the editor

Attention to fluid safety overdue

I found your article “Debunked! 10 Maintenance Myths” in your June/July 2015 issue excellent and timely. Myth five, “Hydraulic systems are not a significant danger to maintenance employees,” in particular touches a strong note, and not just because it seems to draw from my 2015 CIM Convention presentation, “Improving Reliability, Cost and Safety with Fluid Power Systems.”

When I first researched hydraulic system safety and fluid injection injuries, I was amazed at the lack of relevant statistics. I was also in­trigued, when talking to people at the 2014 CIM Convention, as to how many experienced miners knew of somebody who had suffered such a tragic injury, while many others knew nothing about it.

The best available statistics, though sparse, are eye opening. ­Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) government surveyed its mining industry in 2010 and found, with only half the mines reporting, 1,186 fluid release incidents from the previous three years. Of those, 152 were classified as “direct contact” and 3.3 per cent of those resulted in serious injury or death. “Direct contact” incidents were actually three times as frequent as electric shock! Also, in 2010, the Sydney Hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital reported treating 2,460 cases involving high-pressure fluid releases.

I am surprised at how many miners dismiss hydraulic system safety and, in particular, fluid injection injuries as non-issues.

Leading-edge companies recognize a class of incident called “high-severity/low-probability.” In evaluating risk, such companies ask: “Is such an incident likely to happen?” If the answer is “Yes, it’s happened at this site before” or “Yes, it’s happened previously in the industry,” the incident is deemed “likely” and is managed based upon severity alone. Fluid injection injuries are certainly high-severity and they have happened at many mines across the industry. See spectroline.com/fluidsafe-case-study to learn how easily such injuries can occur.

Australia is the world leader in hydraulic system safety in mining. The NSW government published MDG-41 “Guideline for Fluid Power System Safety at Mines” in 2010, which has been adopted country-wide and beyond. A growing number of Australian mines are adding a safety-formulated fluorescent dye to their hydraulic fluids in order to minimize the impact of fluid injection injuries.

The Australian mining community tackled the myths surrounding hydraulic system safety and is seeing benefits. Is it not time we did the same?

All my best,
Timothy Ley
Spectronics Corporation

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