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We recently shared a blog reviewing some of the risks that come with working in the construction industry, especially those that stem from a lack of equipment maintenance. This week and in honor of National Farm Health and Safety Week, VISCOSITY would like to review a few tips and recommendations on keeping farmers safe, especially around the lubricants and oils that keep your equipment on the move and working in fluid motion!
An Industry Effort
The agricultural industry has consistently maintained its status as one of the most hazardous industries in the US, with farm workers exposed to fatal and non-fatal injuries due to various causes, most significantly those from transportation incidents— such as tractor overturns—, contact with objects and equipment, and exposure to harmful substances or environments.
So, what to do to avoid accidents while manipulating, using, and storing your favorite VISCOSITY products? Although each of our products has specific requirements due to their respective components and chemical properties, you can take the following as some general recommendations.
The most common recommendation for storing our products is keeping them in dry, cool, and well-ventilated areas. The best is to keep containers on dedicated shelves or racks, preferably off the ground, to prevent contact with water, soil, or other chemicals, tightly sealed and well labeled. Water exposure could also affect the fluid’s performance.
Lubricants and oils are made of chemicals that could be affected by extended periods of heat exposure and lose their original properties, quality, viscosity, and efficiency. And yes, some VISCOSITY products, like our UNITRACTION™ COOL Semi-Synthetic THF, are designed to perform under extreme temperatures, but a lubricant performing is not the same as a lubricant sitting in a shed. Some additives could potentially break down under these stagnant conditions when the temperatures are high, especially when storage periods are long. Products of this nature are also highly flammable, so keeping them where there is a flame or heat source could potentially cause a reaction and trigger an emergency. You should also consider:
- Separate storage areas: this is to mainly avoid cross-contamination between different types of products, which can alter their original chemistry and properties. It is also a recommendation that could help in case of fire spreading as flammable sources are kept separate.
- Spill containment: product spillage can be caused by improper handling and damaged containers and can represent a safety hazard for the user, the infrastructure, and even the environment. A leaky lubricant could cause slippery floors and increase the chances of slips, trips, and falls, which is already a leading cause of workplace accidents in the agricultural industry. Moreover, it could contaminate other materials stored in the area, damage property around it, and generate hazardous waste. Spill containment measures such as trays or secondary containment systems could help avoid these issues. However, if a spill has already happened, make sure to ventilate the area to prevent toxic fumes inhalation. Spillage should be collected based on the recommendations provided for each product. For example, our UNITEK™ 5000 SAE 0W-40 CK-4 Synthetic can be cleaned using inert solids (clay, diatomaceous earth), but for ULTRACTION™ SSL Synthetic, we recommend non-combustible absorbent materials.
Handle with caution
Lubricants and oils should always be handled with the correct protection gear. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) will include proper shoes, overalls, and helmets, depending on the work you’ll be performing. Gloves, made of rubber or nitrile, are one of the most crucial elements when manipulating these materials to avoid any chemicals having contact with your immediate exposed skin, which can lead to rashes and allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe.
Certain lubricants and oils can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or fine airborne particles when they are dispensed, poured, or sprayed. Wearing a mask or respirator can help prevent inhalation of these particles or fumes, potentially leading to respiratory irritation or adverse health effects. The type of mask or respirator could depend on the product itself; for example, for our TUTELA® PREMIUM 46HV Xtra Duty, we strongly recommend using NIOSH-approved respirators, while for TUTELA® Hydraulic B appropriate mask equipped with oil mist cartridges should be selected. Consider also transferring fuels within a well-ventilated area to further protect you from adverse reactions.
Safety glasses or goggles will protect you from direct contact in case of accidentally splashing or spraying during handling, filling, or pouring, reducing the risk of irritation and eye damage. In case of contact, emergency eye wash fountains and safety showers should be closely available and functional, and the affected person should immediately rinse the area and follow emergency procedures per the respective recommendations.
Another essential aspect to keep in mind is to use proper lifting techniques in case you’ll be handling larger cases so you’ll not suffer strains or injury.
- Pour carefully: using clean, dry funnels, dispensers, and pumps can help you transfer lubricants and oils, reducing the risk of spills and waste. Funnels are vital when pouring, so choose one with a wide opening and a narrow spout for better precision; flexible spouts allow you to reach tight or awkward spaces, making pouring lubricants into hard-to-reach reservoirs easier. You can also use an anti-splash funnel, which includes features like a screen or a mesh to prevent splashes and debris from entering the container. This is especially useful when transferring lubricants with additives or contaminants.Some containers already have built-in spouts and nozzle caps, so you can always count on these to make your process easier. Just make sure these parts are well-attached and in good condition to avoid accidents! Finally, ensure you use stable surfaces when pouring and keep the stream slow and steady to prevent overflow or spillage.
- Dispose adequately: chemicals like the ones present in lubricants and oils can cause severe harm to the soil and sources of water around your farm. Hence, disposing of these materials through sewage systems or dumping grounds can disrupt the ecosystem, even if the disposal site is far from your location. The best course of action is always to research local collection centers, automotive service shops, or local government programs that accept used oils. Many automotive parts stores also offer oil recycling services, so you can also inquire about collection schedules or drop-off locations accordingly. During storage, make sure to label the containers clearly as “Used Oil” to prevent confusion; then, you should transport it to the authorized collection center or recycling facility in tightly sealed containers to prevent spills. Avoid mixing residues and substances to ensure a clean recycling and/or disposal cycle. Most importantly, always follow any local, state, or federal regulations on the matter.
- Spill Kits: keep spill kits on hand containing absorbent materials, gloves, and appropriate tools to handle spills quickly and effectively.
- Emergency Contacts: have emergency contacts readily available, including local authorities, environmental agencies, and spill response services.
- Fire management: given the high flammability of most lubricants and oils, appropriate fire response training and learning are crucial to dealing with any fire caused by these materials. A vital point that should apply is to always, ALWAYS review the safety recommendations of the OEM for each specific product, especially those related to emergencies. To put an example, if a fire starts and gets in contact with spills from our TUTELA® Diesel Fuel Winter Treatment, you can use carbon dioxide, dry chemical, and foam extinguishers, as well as sand and water spray as alternatives to put it out. However, if the flammable source is our TUTELA® Spindle Cleaner, you only get the first three options, and sand or water sprays will not be of use.
Keeping you safe and working in Fluid Motion
The best defense is an offense! A proactive attitude towards safety will ensure that you and your people are aware, attentive, and prepared to deal with any emergency. For more information about safety procedures and recommendations for each product, visit our SDS page or check your favorite products’ safety and product data sheets in our product section at viscosityoil.com.