What are fluid-injection injuries and how can you prevent them?

January 6, 2021

Seemingly minor – but come with major consequences. That’s what an injury looks like from fluid injection.

Though rare, high-pressure fluid injection injuries are characterized by a small puncture wound that, unfortunately, is often overlooked or underestimated by physicians and patients. This is because initial symptoms of the small wound are mild. However, if not treated promptly and properly, the injected substance can cause extensive tissue damage and even loss of the limb.

Sounds scary – and it is. Being aware of fluid-injection hazards and how to avoid injury is imperative in keeping your hands – and your life – intact.

Where do fluid injection injuries come from?

Injuries of this type occur when the skin comes into contact with a fine, high-velocity stream of fluid, which is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). Industries that use hydraulic and diesel fuel systems are at risk of this injury, as these machines can operate in the 10,000-30,000 PSI range. If a loose connection or a hose defect should occur, even fluid streams as little as 100 PSI can penetrate deep under human skin, similar to how a hypodermic needle pierces the skin, resulting in injury. Fluids such as oil, chemicals, or solvents could end up in the bloodstream.

For example, while a worker is performing maintenance on a hydraulic hose, a pinhole leak could appear in the wall of a hose and release a “jet” of oil, which could thereby come in contact with the hand and effortlessly breach the skin.

What are the resulting injuries?

Fluid injection injuries primarily affect the hands. And because of the hand’s unique anatomy, injuries can be quick to incur and even harder to repair – causing extreme detriment to your work and personal life.

Though the initial sensation may feel like a sting or slight shock, having fluid injected directly into your skin and subsequent blood vessels can have severe consequences. Depending on the toxicity, density, and velocity of the injected substance and more, the danger increases with time. This is because fluid can spread rapidly through your circulatory system. As the resulting tissue damage spreads, one might experience a painful throb, swelling of the affected area, and skin discoloration from poor or no blood flow.

What’s worse is that the human body has little ability to purge these types of fluids without help from medical professionals, leading to extensive tissue damage, as mentioned, development of compartment syndrome, functional disability, and sometimes loss of the limb. In fact, a medical journal states that all patients with these injuries need to be treated as potential amputees at the time of the injury.

Who’s at risk?

According to a Fluid Power Safety Institute (FPSI) study, more than 99% of people who service, repair, and/or troubleshoot hydraulic systems have been subjected to the potential for a high-pressure injection injury.

Here are some industries that utilize hydraulic equipment:

  • Agriculture
  • Automotive
  • Construction
  • Defense
  • First Responders
  • Landscaping
  • Marine
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Municipalities
  • Oil & Gas
  • Painting
  • Pressure Cleaning
  • Transportation
  • Utilities
  • Waste & Recycling

What are the standards?

Unfortunately for these workers, ‘hydraulics’ or fluid injection/power is not recognized as an occupational hazard by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This also means there is no safety training requirement, and less than 1% of companies provide training on their own.

Furthermore, there is also no category for near-miss reporting, which would help highlight the importance of safety requirements for this application.

Because OSHA only requires training for jobs they recognize as occupational hazards, licensed safety professionals typically do not have the skillsets needed to introduce vital safety guidelines needed to protect these kinds of workers.

The key to protection

In 2014, a leading UK hydraulics solutions company recognized the seriousness of fluid injection injuries and contacted HexArmor® for help.

Because these injuries are caused by high-pressure pinhole leaks similar in nature to a needle sticking the skin, HexArmor® looked at their needle-resistant products that include SuperFabric® brand material*, exclusively licensed to HexArmor® in the US.

Through this partnership and the support of the British Health and Safety Laboratory, SuperFabric® brand material was validated as an effective protective material for this hazard using specific parameters.

Lab results show that select gloves manufactured with three layers of SuperFabric® brand material offer injection protection at pressures up to 10,150 PSI (700 bar) with apertures ranging in size from 0.002 to 0.01 in. (0.05 to 0.3 mm) using standard hydraulic oil.

Found in a broad range of HexArmor PPE offerings, SuperFabric® brand material is an engineered textile that includes rigid guard plates attached to flexible fabric and, when layered, has incredible needle-resistant properties, as well as cut and abrasion resistance. SuperFabric® guard plates either block and deflect or trap and arrest needle hazards in the small gaps found between plates, keeping workers safe from needlestick injuries, without sacrificing dexterity.

Learn more about the technology behind SuperFabric® brand material.

HexArmor® can help

The good news is that we have safety gloves that are ready for action.

Here are the needle-resistant products from HexArmor® that can help fight against fluid-injection injuries:

Let us know if you need help or if you're ready to start a trial - our Solution Specialists are ready to work with you. Call 1-877-MY ARMOR or send us a message.

View the PointGuard® Ultra 4041

View the PointGuard® Ultra 9032

*SUPERFABRIC® IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF HDM, INC., exclusive to HexArmor® in the industrial PPE market

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