Pirtek Europe, based in London, has developed the Fluid Power Glove, a safety glove specifically designed to prevent painful and debilitating hydraulic-injection injuries to the hand.
The root cause of fluid-injection injuries is pin-hole leaks in high-pressure hose that generate a needle-like spray of high-velocity oil. In fact, the velocity of fluid forced through a pin-hole break in a hydraulic hose can exceed 600 ft/sec, nearly the muzzle velocity of a gun, according to officials at Pirtek.
Pressurized fluid released in a fine jet can easily pass through conventional protective gloves and puncture fingers and hands. Skin penetration can occur up to four inches away from the fluid source and at pressures as low as 100 psi. High-velocity fluid can permanently damage blood vessels, nerves and tendons, and raise the risk of blood poisoning and bacterial infection. And the toxicity of the injected fluid leads to necrosis of the affected area.
Hydraulic-injection trauma is a medical emergency. Surgery is always required in such cases to remove dead tissue and clean injected fluid from the wound. Failure to treat the area within about six hours often results in the need to amputate fingers and limbs.
Machine builders, hose manufacturers and anyone experienced in fluid-power equipment cautions service personnel to never, ever, try to locate a leak with one’s hands, or any other part of the body, when a hose is pressurized. Yet sadly, accidents still happen.
A typical fluid-injection injury occurs after a hydraulic hose failure. Service technicians making a repair often encounter defective or damaged hydraulic hoses with tiny holes in the hose. “Normally when people arrive at a machine and check what needs to be repaired, there shouldn’t be any pressure left in the system—but you never can be 100% certain,” said Joachim Gaspar, marketing director of Pirtek Germany in Cologne. If a valve or other hydraulic component malfunctions, residual high-pressure fluid in the lines can remain a hazard, he said.
The Fluid Power Glove has been specifically developed to protect service technicians against the dangers of fluid injections, said Gaspar. Pirtek teamed with glove supplier Polyco Ltd., Enfield, England and technical-apparel manufacturer HexArmor, Grand Rapids, Mich., to develop the Fluid Power Glove. The key material in the glove’s construction is SuperFabric from HDM Inc., Oakdale Minn. SuperFabric is an engineered textile that includes rigid guard plates attached to a flexible fabric substrate. The manufacturing process prints tiny plates made of tough, polymer resin onto the substrate, generating specific geometric shapes packed in tightly-spaced patterns.
SuperFabric comes in various materials like cotton, polyester and nylon—all, however, overlaid with precisely positioned guard plates to provide puncture protection. SuperFabric differs from other protective materials like Kevlar and UHMW polyethylene that, while strong, are not resistant to puncture from sharp, needle-like objects and forces.
The Fluid Power Glove has three protective layers, says Gasper. According to company officials, the unique construction makes it the only glove available today that protects against hydraulic-injection injury. The product was tested at the British government’s Health & Safety Executive laboratory in Buxton, England according to standard EN388:2003. Lab results show the glove offers 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.
The comfortable, close-fitting gloves ensure hands can move freely while working on hydraulic systems, and they are available in sizes from small to XXL. They’re suited for hydraulic field technicians, mobile hose-replacement technicians, plant maintenance personnel and fitters, and anyone working on or around hydraulically powered equipment and circuits.
Pirtek Europe originally developed the product to protect its own service technicians and it is now marketing the glove to fluid-power users throughout Europe. Expanding distribution to North America is a possibility, said Gaspar.