Operating a Hydraulic Jack and being Safe instead of Sorry
Hydraulic Jacks were invented nearly 200 years ago. Thought ye come in many shapes and varieties, they have a few things in common – they raise loads via pumping oil into a lift ram, and they have the potential to cause a great deal of harm if used incorrectly.
Here we’ll address a few of the most important safety tips when working with hydraulic jacks of all kinds.
Read the manual. Really.
Each piece of equipment has its own foibles, risks and detailed safety procedures. You should always read the manual in detail, and if the manual contradicts this list in any way, you should always follow the manual’s instructions. If you don’t have a copy of the manual, seek out its manufacturer online. Many offer free pdf format safety manuals for their products, going back decades.
Check the jack’s load capacity before attempting to lift anything.
The load capacity is the maximum amount that particular jack can safely lift. This should be clearly written on the jack itself. If not, consult its documentation.
Never put any part of your body under a hydraulic jack.
You’d think this would go without saying, but people still do it. Never put anything you want to keep under a hydraulic jack or the load it is lifting. Under no circumstances crawl under a jack that is lifting a load. You should keep this area clear of all material, especially those which are attached to yourself. Axle stands should be used when or commercial lifts should be used when working under a body.
Change the oil in the jack regularly.
Like almost all oils, the hydraulic fluid in your jack can degrade over time. This will limit the performance of the jack, or could even cause the jack to fail. You should find detailed instructions about how and when to change the jack’s oil in its manual, but generally speaking most manufacturers advise changing he oil every 2 to 3 years.
Wear proper Personal protection Equipment (PPE) when operating a hydraulic jack.
The exact equipment needed varies from jack to jack, and again you should check the manual for advice. At a bare minimum, though, you should be wearing impact-resistant or steel toed boots, sturdy gloves and impact resistant goggles. When it comes to PPE, you’d rather be wearing too much than too little when something goes wrong!
Use only suitable jack points to lift a load.
You can’t just lift a load anywhere. Depending on what you’re lifting and the design of your jack, that could cause a great deal of damage to the load, to the jack, or both. The load will typically have one or more designated ‘lifting points’ or ‘jack points’ which are designed to handle the entire eight of the load, and to distribute it evenly. Pressing the jack up under a softer or more fragile part of the load could dent it, pierce it or even shatter it depending on its nature.