Fluid Power Journal

An Employer’s Guide to Hydraulic Safety Awareness Training


Many occupational standards and regulations explicitly require employers to train employees in the health and safety aspects of their workplace. Occupational Health and Safety standards make it the employer’s legal responsibility to limit certain tasks to employees who are certified, competent, or qualified—meaning that they have completed special training to perform specific duties and are aware of the related hazards. Training must be a part of every employer’s health and safety program for protecting workers against injuries and illnesses.

Research has shown that workers who are new on the job have higher rates of incidents and injuries than more experienced workers. The Hydraulic Safety Authority of Canada (HSAC) Inc. has developed training guidelines to assist employers and personnel in providing health and safety information needed to reduce risk to workers, the public, and the environment when hydraulic equipment is used. The development of these guidelines can assist employers in their efforts to meet the training requirements of current and future occupational health and safety standards.

Determining Employees’ Training Needs

To determine whether or not hydraulic safety training should be incorporated into a company’s health and safety training program, employers should begin by determining whether or not hydraulic systems are used by employees either within or outside of the facility. The following questions can be used to help make the determination:

  • Do we use hydraulics in our facility for plant processes?
  • Do we have mobile or construction equipment?
  • Do our employees maintain equipment that utilizes hydraulics?
  • Do we have employees who work within one meter of a hydraulic system or component?
  • Do our employees operate equipment that utilizes hydraulics in public areas?
  • Do we operate hydraulically driven equipment in fragile ecosystems?

If employers are unable to answer these questions or determine with certainty whether or not hydraulic equipment is being utilized by their employees, they may need to consult with others within the company.

If it is determined that hydraulic equipment is being utilized, employers must determine who is at risk of being injured from hydraulic exposure. One way to identify employees who are at risk of exposure, and therefore require training, is to consider an employee’s occupation and specific duties. The nature of the duties and tasks performed will indicate which employees should receive priority information on hydraulic safety. Some employees are employed in high-risk occupations, but even within hazardous occupations, some personnel operate at greater risk than others.

Once employees who are at risk of hydraulic exposure have been identified, they should be enrolling in the level of training that is best suited to their specific needs.

The following guidelines are intended to help determine an employee’s level of exposure to hydraulic hazards in the workplace, however, it is important to realize that hydraulic hazards do exist outside of the workplace, as well. Outside of work, people may be exposed to tractors, lawnmowers, wood splitters, jacks, power and tilt on steering in boats, brakes on vehicles, and rental equipment that all utilize hydraulics. Hydraulic systems are a way of transmitting energy, which together with the loads they manipulate, are extremely hazardous. Therefore, maintenance, reliability, ethical choices, and knowledge play a substantial role in risk reduction.

Educational Requirements Based on Level of Exposure to a Hydraulic Hazard

The following three-part scale can be used to determine an employee’s training needs based on his or her level of exposure to hydraulic equipment.

Green Scale – Less Likely

In this situation, hydraulic hazard exposure is low, as the employee does not work within one meter of a hydraulic system. Recommendation: Exposure-Level Training.

Yellow Scale – Medium Risk

In this situation, an employee is exposed to a moderate level of risk of hydraulic hazard exposure because he or she works within one meter of a functioning hydraulic system, operates equipment that utilizes hydraulic systems, or may come into contact with hydraulic fluids. Recommendation: Exposure-Level Training.

Red Scale – Most Likely

In this situation, hydraulic hazard exposure is high because the employee maintains and repairs hydraulic systems and components, has physical contact with hydraulic components and fluids, or completes tasks that include designing, assembling, commissioning, decommissioning, or demolishing equipment that utilizes hydraulic systems. Recommendation: High-Risk Maintenance-Level Training.

Minimizing Risk

In addition to providing employees with appropriate training to reduce their exposure to hydraulic hazards, employers should consider enlisting a competent person to perform a job hazard analysis to determine if a job or task can be redesigned to make it safer.

For more information: The mission of Hydraulic Safety Authority of Canada (HSAC) is to provide proactive health and safety awareness programs specific to hydraulic systems and components. These programs provide a guideline for companies to follow as they show the necessary due diligence required for providing a safe work environment and improving their existing health and safety systems. Contact by phone: 416-363-7272; e-mail: info@hsac.ca; web: www.hsac.ca.

The IFPS is now an authorized provider of HSAC’s Hydraulic Safety Awareness e-learning courses.

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