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Loughborough-based Flotec, a leading supplier of hydraulic and pneumatic solutions to industry, discusses the need for safe hydraulics to protect employees and mitigate the risk of litigation.

A high-profile case of a loss of limb to a firefighter due to a hydraulic hose failure highlights the need to ensure the upmost safety of hydraulic equipment to protect employees from injury and harm.

In March of 2014, firefighter Ian McDonald was taking part in a training exercise with his employer, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service when the cutting gear he was working with suffered a hydraulic hose failure resulting in a jet of high-pressure hydraulic fluid tearing through his PPE leather glove and piercing his hand.

The toxic fluid began to destroy McDonald’s tissue. When Ian noticed his hand swelling and began to feel a burning sensation, he was taken to hospital.

After an X-ray, it was discovered that Mr McDonald had oil in his hand.

Over a four-year period, he suffered a great amount of pain and increasing immobility and underwent 40 operations as doctors did everything that they could to keep his hand working.

Ian’s hand was finally amputated in June 2018.

An investigation carried out by solicitors revealed an inadequate inspection system and lack of equipment maintenance. It was also discovered that the hydraulic hose pipe connecting the generator to the cutting gear, which pumps an internal fluid up to 850 Bars of pressure, had tiny punctures to it which had appeared over time after being dragged over broken glass and debris at the scene of any given incident.

Furthermore, whilst protective hydraulic hose sleeves were available, these had failed to be applied to the hosing.

Upon court proceedings, Ian McDonald was awarded £1.5m in damages for his injuries and disruption to personal wellbeing and life.

Not only did this incident devastatingly alter a man’s life, but it also resulted in substantially costly legal expenses and damage pay-outs.

The case of Ian McDonald highlights the need to regularly inspect and maintain equipment’s hydraulic hosing as well as protect hoses from damage, abrasion and general wear and tear.

In this case, fitting the LifeGuard hydraulic hose sleeve would have been instrumental in preventing injury to the victim.

The LifeGuard hydraulic hose sleeve is effective in containing pin burst leaks of up to 35,0 MPa and hydraulic hose bursts up to 70 MPa and is capable of fluid containment up to 10,000 psi.

Importantly, the LifeGuard sleeve is fully compliant with ISO 3457 specifications and meets MSHA flame resistance standards.


· Temperature Range: -40°C to +121°C (-40°F to +250°F)

· Handles hydraulic fluid and biodiesel fuels

· For hose ID's -04 up to -12

· Super-strong nylon layers

· Non-conductive

The LifeGuard sleeve is slipped onto the hose and clamped at each end.

If a hose burst or pinhole leak occurs, the LifeGuard clamping system allows the hydraulic fluid to safely escape down the length of the hose assembly in a controlled manner.

The incident with Ian McDonald was what is called a pinhole leak where hydraulic fluid is expelled from a tiny hole in the hose with a force equivalent to that of a bullet being fired from a gun.

As this incident highlights, the fluid can penetrate PPE with alarming speed and ferocity.

The LifeGuard sleeve has been rigorously tested in both lab and field environments.

During 5,000 psi (34.5 MPa) pinhole leak tests, LifeGuard sleeve controlled and redirected fluid while un-sleeved hoses allowed high-pressure spraying of fluids in the immediate vicinity of the leak which is what McDonald fell victim to.

The high strength nylon layers and Kevlar material of the LifeGuard sleeves would have been effective in resisting PPE penetration.

After the incident involving Ian McDonald, Scottish Fire and Rescue’s David McGown issued the following statement:

"Following a robust investigation into Mr McDonald's injury, we undertook a review of equipment and related safety checks and have taken appropriate steps to minimise the risk of similar incidents happening in the future."

Unfortunately, these steps came far too late for Ian where he now has a prosthetic hand.

The incident would likely not have happened had safety procedures and the appropriate hydraulic hose sleeves already been in place.

This story is a poignant example of the need to not only protect staff from hydraulic hose failures but to also mitigate the risk of costly legal action.

Flotec Industrial Limited has been applying LifeGuard sleeves for its clients as a solution to associated incidents and fire hazards where customers now regard this product as best-practice and an industry standard application.

Case study taken from BBC News:

To find out more about the LifeGuard sleeve and Flotec’s entire industrial product range, call the team on +44 (0) 1509 230 100 or email

Alternatively, head to and submit an online enquiry.

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