Even the most basic of power tools can pose serious hazards. Look at the pressure washer for example, used to clean things such as building exteriors, paved surfaces, commercial vehicles, and farm equipment. It’s far more than just a souped up garden hose. An electrically-powered industrial grade pressure washer sprays water at pressures at 1,000 pounds per square inch or more. A gas-powered pressure washer can spray water at pressures ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds per square inch.
When a stream of water at these pressures hit the human body, very serious and potentially fatal injuries can result. This blog post will discuss some of the hazards associated with the use of pressure washers and steps that workers can take to minimize the possibility of injury.
Injuries caused by pressure washers
Some of the injuries that cleaning technicians can suffer while using pressure washers include:
- Penetration wounds from thrown glass fragments, rocks, and other debris
- Eye injuries and blindness
- Infections such as tetanus
- Injection injuries caused when cleaning chemicals penetrate the skin
- Slip-and-fall injuries occurring on flat surfaces
- Falls from height when use of a pressure washer on a ladder or scaffolding causes a worker to lose balance
- Electrocution injuries
In addition, use of gas-powered pressure washers present special hazards. Long-term use of these pressure washers can cause hearing loss. And use of gas pressure washers in enclosed spaces lead to the buildup of carbon monoxide and result in asphyxiation.
A significant danger for workers is the innocuous appearance of some of these injuries when they first occur. But a penetration wound, for example, can result in an infection, which in turn can lead to eventual disability or even amputation.
How workers can reduce the likelihood of pressure washer injuries
Those who use pressure washers as part of their work duties understand their power. But when people use a tool every day, they can grow complacent and even careless. Workers can minimize the possibility of injury by taking these precautions:
- Always wear protective clothing, including long trousers, long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and splash-resistant safety glasses.
- Never point the nozzle of a pressure washer at anything you don’t intend to spray.
- Don’t depress the trigger until you have pointed the nozzle at the thing you want to spray.
- Before starting a pressure washer, always test the circuit breaker (ground fault circuit interrupter).
- When using an electrically-powered pressure washer, make sure that the power cord and any extension cord are not in standing water.
- If you have to operate a pressure washer on a ladder, lift, or scaffold, use a safety harness.
- Avoid the use of solid stream nozzles. Use a wide-angle or fan nozzle instead.
Workers who have suffered an injury while using a pressure washer should seek medical attention as soon as possible. They may also want to speak with an attorney about getting workers’ compensation benefits.