HomeLab & Science NewsArticlesAutomated vacuum pump oil change systems minimize back injuries, haz-mat exposure

Automated vacuum pump oil change systems minimize back injuries, haz-mat exposure

Jenny SprungBy Jenny Sprung, Senior Application Specialist
On Thursday, September 25, 2014
In Articles

Regularly changing the oil in a vacuum pump is necessary to prevent damage to the pump’s internal components and to maintain optimal operation. Chemicals and debris that can migrate into the pump oil could cause the vacuum pump to seize, rendering it useless.

The appropriate frequency of oil changes is determined by the lab’s standard operating procedures, and can vary greatly from requiring an oil change after each use to requiring an oil change every several months. An oil changer system can automate the vacuum pump oil change process, reducing the potential for workplace injuries, eliminating the hassles of potential vacuum leaks, and minimizing the exposure of laboratory personnel to potentially hazardous materials that can migrate into a laboratory vacuum pump’s oil.

A routine oil change includes multiple steps that may involve bending, twisting and lifting a heavy, dirty vacuum pump. These steps include disconnecting the vacuum hoses and power from the pump, which is typically located in a difficult position out of the way of routine work (such as in a cabinet or on the floor). Once the pump is disconnected, the vacuum pump, often weighing as much as 75 pounds, must be lifted to a comfortable working height.

Related Video: How to avoid the mess of vacuum pump oil changes - Labconco

While changing the pump oil, the attendant is often unaware that hazardous materials that have been carefully handled in the laboratory may have worked their way into the oil. And when the oil change itself is complete, the heavy, messy pump must be returned to its original position.

According to the United States Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33% of all worker injuries in 2011 were classified as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Work related MSDs (including those of the neck, upper extremities and lower back) are one of the leading causes of lost workday injury and illness. Workers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors at work, such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body positions, and performing repetitive tasks. Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases a worker's risk of injury.

Eliminating the need to move or lift heavy, awkward, and sometimes slippery objects such as vacuum pumps reduces the potential for work related injuries (1).   OSHA notes “Factors that contribute to back disorders include: bad body mechanics—how one lifts, pushes, pulls or carries objects, repetitive lifting of awkward items or equipment, twisting while lifting, bending while lifting, and heavy lifting” (2).

Related Article: PrimeMate Oil Change System saves time, reduces mess

Each year, job injuries cost industry upwards of $140 billion, which accounts for medical expenses and work lost for the 1.8 million workers who are injured (3). In one year, an average of 1 in 70 workers will be involved in an accident on the job, each costing their companies approximately $78,000 per year (3).

OSHA recommends holding heavy objects close to your body while lifting (4); however, an oil pump can be cumbersome and have residual oil on it from prior oil changes, giving workers extra motivation to hold the already awkward and heavy pump away from their body. This can result in the pump sliding out of the user’s hands, risking personal safety and expensive laboratory equipment.

Rotary vane oil pumps are susceptible to vacuum leaks caused by moving the pump or disconnecting hoses. Therefore moving the pump after installation, when a good depth of vacuum has been achieved, is not desirable (as it introduces the risk of creating small leaks).

An automated oil change system can perform a mess-free oil change without the need for disconnecting hoses. During the automated process, vacuum tubing can remain connected, and the pump can be left in its location. When the oil change is complete, quick-disconnect hose couplers (pictured right) can be used to avoid contact with the potentially hazardous oil, also avoiding messy and dangerous oil spills.

Although new pump oil is not labeled as hazardous, used pump oil could contain hazardous materials that require specialized handling and disposal, as well as proper cleanup if the contaminated oil is spilled. This could create an unsafe work environment until the cleanup is done and cause delays in research. An automated oil change system disposes used oil into a sealed waste container. Once the waste container is full, the oil can be disposed of properly, without the user coming into contact with the waste oil.

There are several safety and productivity advantages to using an automated oil change system:

  • May be used with all types of vacuum pump oil
  • Connections are made quickly and easily
  • Heavy lifting and twisting are eliminated
  • Pump oil is drained and filled by a few button pushes.
  • Waste oil is deposited into a sealed container; personnel do not need to handle it.
  • One automated oil changer can be shared by an entire facility.

PrimeMate Oil Change Systems

Perform fast, mess-free oil changes on vacuum pumps. Portable, automatic.

  1. OSHA - Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace
  2. OSHA - "Back Disorders and Injuries"
  3. ThinkJunction - "Work Related Injury Statistics"
  4. OSHA - "Materials Handling: Heavy Lifting"


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