The operation of vacuum equipment involves the loading or offloading of various types of dry or wet material. The pump, fan or positive displacement blower creates an area of low pressure in the vacuum tank. Atmospheric pressure helps push liquid material through the hose and into the tank. A vacuum hose under suction can produce an air velocity of up to 624 miles per hour. In the event that a body part comes in contact with a hose end, you will be unable to pull yourself free.

The pressure caused by this suction will cause blood and other liquids to flow towards the truck and accumulate there. Vacuum will pull fluids out of the body causing damage to surrounding tissues. If you come in contact with suction, it will cause severe injury or even death. An injury caused by vacuum can be serious. The vacuum action must be stopped as quickly as possible. Seconds matter when the body is subjected to the forces of vacuum.

Use a portable vacuum breaker for all air mover jobs. A vacuum breaker is a Tee shaped device that fits in the vacuum hose line. Types may vary but the most commonly used device consists of a cable attached to a long rod that fits over one opening of the Tee. The portable vacuum breaker allows the hose operator to kill or release vacuum in the event of any emergency. When the operator opens the vacuum breaker it creates and immediate vacuum loss at the end of the hose. It is critical that the vacuum breaker be installed properly and tested for it to be effective during operation of the vacuum truck.

Vacuum Hazards to Avoid:

Rupture – keep vacuum tools and hoses away from face and body. Concentrated vacuum on the body, such as through a hose end in full contact can result in pulling of organs outside of the body or the avulsion of limbs. An avulsion is an injury in which a body structure is forcibly detached from its normal point of insertion by either trauma or surgery. In this case the flesh is torn off of bone by suction force.
Suffocation – keep vacuum tools and hoses away from face and body. Serious injury or death will result from vacuum suffocation.
Crushing and cutting – never attach hose, pipe or accessories with the vacuum on. Forces from the vacuum can trap fingers, hands and feet in the joint with enough force or impact to crush and cut. Material flow in system will increase the severity of the injury by physical damage and contamination of the wound.
To help aid in the prevention of suction injuries we suggest that you

Protective Actions
• Use a hose end protector and a hose end with a handle which keeps the hose operator’s arms a slight distance from the end of the hose.
• An inline vacuum relief valve must always be used when operating near the end of the hose or pipe.

Vacuum Injury:
• Seek medical attention immediately. Never delay!
• Tell the physician of the cause of the injury.
• Tell the physician what type of material was being vacuumed at the time of the accident as material may have entered the wound.