Don't be fooled by appearances
21 November 2013
There is a lot more to hydraulic hose than first meets the eye, writes Ian Morris, director of the British Fluid Power Association.
To the casual observer, a length of hydraulic hose can appear fairly basic in construction. However, like so many things in life, it is in fact is a sophisticated piece of equipment relied on by countless industrial organisations to efficiently operate a variety of plant and equipment. Hydraulic hoses carry the flow of high-pressure oil from a pump to a motor in order for the whole system to function efficiently. However some end-users expect their hose to work efficiently and safely regardless of the grade used or how infrequently it is serviced or replaced.
A hydraulic hose often needs to be able to operate at very high pressure; 500bar is not uncommon and in extreme cases pressures can be far higher. It also needs to be capable of handling extremely high temperatures and shock loads. And it’s not just a hose’s capability of securely containing high-pressure, high-temperature oil that needs to be ensured; there is also the importance of hose flexibility. A length of hose should be designed to move as often as the machine moves. Frequency of movement not only puts stress on the hose and its construction but also on the fittings at either end – the parts that form the connections to the operating part of the machine.
And what of hose replacement? When the time comes the machine’s owner may not return to the original manufacturer and instead have a hose made by a third-party provider. This in itself is not a problem provided the same specification of hose is used and so long as the replacement hose is correctly routed; taking into account all the relevant quality and safety standards. There is also the question of plant and equipment downtime to bear in mind. The process of ‘fighting fires’ after the equipment has broken down is something to avoid wherever possible, and is another example of the importance of ensuring hose and fittings are compatible, of a high quality and regularly maintained.
Sourcing the right grade of hose is also important from a health and safety perspective. A high-pressure hydraulic oil injection injury is a serious occurrence and something to be avoided at all costs. It may not happen very often, but when it does it’s not only the injured party who can be seriously affected; the whole health and safety regime of the company can be called to account.
With a focus on issues such as those cited above, the British Fluid Power Association (BFPA) has established a number of programmes aimed at raising the awareness levels of people who work with hydraulic hose at all levels; from the system designer and field engineer, to the machine operator and the person who makes the hose. The training courses have been designed first to raise machine performance levels and further enhance the reputation of hydraulic systems, and secondly to keep operators safe. The BFPA runs both the ‘Foundation Course in Working Safely with Hydraulic Hose and Connectors’, and a practical, workshop-based course titled ‘The BFPA Hose Assembly Skills Training Programme’. A number of hose equipment and service providers are also licensed to carry out these courses throughout the UK and Ireland. More information can be obtained by contacting the BFPA directly on 01608 647900, or by visiting the association’s newly-designed website: www.bfpa.co.uk.
Remember, only trust your hose equipment to a reputable source; whether the provider is a member of the BFPA Hose Accreditation Scheme or runs a rigorous and reputable scheme of its own. And, in terms of hose training, make sure the provider’s courses are well-established within the hydraulics industry; whether they run their own courses or are authorised agents for the BFPA’s own Hose Foundation and Hose Skills courses. When the efficiency of your plant and equipment, as well as the health and safety of your workforce is at stake, only the best product, training and service provision should be accepted.