While pressure washers are a handy cleaning gadget, these need to be handled very carefully as these are extremely powerful machines. Things can and do go wrong and pressure washer accidents are reported every now and then.
If you fail to follow the instructions provided in user manual, it could lead to severe injury or even death. Did you know that pressure washing equipment, if not used in the right way can cause electrocution?
Nearly 6057 people suffered pressure washer injuries in 2014
Let’s not forget that all of these people required a visit to the emergency room as per the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most importantly, a 14% of these people needed further hospitalization.
Just keep on reading, and learn about some of the accidents that have occurred recently due to negligence while using pressure washer.
- A pig farmer in South West Ontario has admitted to violating OSHA as one of his employees suffered permanent injury due to a pressure cleaner. This unfortunate accident occurred when the worker stumbled, while carrying a portable washer spray gun into a shop. This caused the gun to drop out of his hand.
What happened next? Pressurized water gushed out of the unit and hit him with a force in the range of 2000 – 2300 PSI, resulting in serious injury. Though he was rushed into the hospital, he suffered permanent damage.
The reason behind the pressure washer accident:
The trigger of heavy-duty pressure washer was purposely left open by using a Zip tie. Let’s face it. This was gross negligence on the part of the employer. If they had given due importance to Proper pressure washer setup, they could have avoided this incident for sure.
- In another tragic incident, a 27-year-old employee of a Derbyshire car repair business died from massive blisters. A £22000 fine was levied on the business as penalty.
The reason behind the pressure washer accident:
Mr. Brown had entered a booth along with the pressure washer. He happened to ignite the flammable vapor that was created above the gun wash, thereby leading to a dangerous fire. Don’t let this be you.
And another thing, pressure washers are extremely dangerous in that even a minor skin break can lead to the fluid penetrating deep into tissue and spreading bacterial infection.
For you to prevent hazards you need to be first alert of them. Let’s not forget the above incidents and stay safe by following the safety tips. But how? Make a list of all the possible hazards you can imagine- slippery or uneven surfaces, objects one could trip upon, pets, kids, and other kinds of distractions.
If you have to pressure wash on the street, request the services of a spotter who can warn you about any approaching traffic. This can help avoid a mishap. You can’t both watch out for traffic and operate the equipment simultaneously.
A spotter can ensure that there is none in the vicinity of the washing area. Once the list of possible hazards is ready, you can chalk out the steps that you need to take to avoid these.
Let’s get down to business and learn how to operate the pressure washer safely.
10 Essential steps to avoid pressure washer accidents
Read the user manual-
You should not operate a pressure cleaner unless you have carefully read the user manual. You may quickly skim through the manual, and mark the important safety points. In addition, it will teach you how to assemble and disassemble the unit, which is very important from a safety point of view.
Most of us tend to neglect the user manual. Don’t do it with pressure washer user manuals.
Wearing protective clothing-
It makes eminent sense to wear protective clothing and gloves when handling a pressure cleaner, does not it? Open toed shoes are a bad idea too, as pressure washing can make chipped paint and other articles fly at you.
Let’s find out how protective clothing help you to stay safe:
- Loose clothing and jewelry can be caught in moving parts of the machine and cause a disaster. Protective rubber gloves as well as no slip footwear are recommended for outdoor washing.
- Goggles or full-face masks are necessary to protect your eyes from any blow back, especially when cleaning a vertical surface.
- Gas pressure cleaners tend to be quite noisy. Make sure to wear ear protection while using those.
- You have to be wearing pants, when operating pressure cleaners as there will be debris flying around. Don’t be tempted to wear shorts even if it is scorching summer.
Selecting the right nozzle-
One should understand that the nozzles are colored differently to denote the degree of spray
Using the red colored nozzle is a bad idea as the spray gush out a dangerous jet. It is better to choose yellow tip (15 degree spray) to clean concrete.
Green tip (25 degree spray) is sufficient for general outdoor cleaning.
White colored power washer nozzle tips on the other hand are just right to clean cars or easily damaged surfaces at they feature a 40-degree angle. Finally a black tip sprays soapy water at a low pressure angle of 65 degrees.
You could check out the efficacy of your cleaning by using a white tip on a small patch of surface. If this works out fine, you can continue cleaning with it. Else, switch to the next higher option, till you find the right one.
Make it a point to read the instructions on all the bottles of cleaning solutions regarding storage and usage before using any of them. This will prevent damage to your skin, eyes, nose and lungs.
Spraying at an angle-
It makes sense to spray from a safe distance and at an angle. The spray gun of a washer is conceived to work with plain water or water mixed with chemicals. It should not to be used to spray non-approved liquids or flammables.
An 8 inch to 24 inch distance is recommended between the spray wand nozzle and the surface being cleaned. Spraying water at an angle will keep the debris away from you, particularly your face. This is especially true when you hit cracks and uneven surfaces.
Never stand too close to the surface while cleaning woods.
Wood can splinter and break if one stands close to it while pressure cleaning.
Try cleaning a small portion first and see how it goes. Pressure cleaner expels water at high-pressure. This can cause small rocks and gravel to be directed towards you, leading to personal injury and the property damage.
It is therefore advisable to use a broom when there is a lot of loose gravel lying around.
Never spray towards your own self or other people-
A pressure washer is a tool, you should never treat it as a toy or garden hose. Learn to respect the tremendous force at which it expels water and it will appreciate you by cleaning the premises efficiently.
If you regard it as a toy, it can cause serious injuries like lacerations, bruises and fractures. Pressurized air and water together make for a very dangerous projectile.
- Washing your hands and feet even with moderately pressurized water can puncture the skin. Don’t even try changing the spray pattern while spraying.
- Avoid aiming at windows or other such breakable materials. Use a low-pressure nozzle for cleaning glass or automobiles.
- Children can’t be allowed to operate a pressure washer. Give them a garden hose to promote their cleaning pursuits, and not a pressure cleaner.
- Ensure that your surroundings and the direction in which you plan to clean are clear of obstruction and problem free.
When not spraying use safety latch-
Once you are done with the cleaning, turn on the safety lock to prevent inadvertent engagement. Nowadays, most of the pressure washers come with a safety latch. You can flick it horizontally behind the trigger to ward off unintentional usage. It sounds simple. And it is.
Also, never leave a running pressure washer unattended. Maybe you have to be away for a short while (even a minute). Make sure to turn off the safety washer before leaving. Not doing so can damage the pump and possibly lead to accidents.
Gas Pressure Washer should not be used in enclosed area-
CARBON MONOXIDE- Using a gas pressure cleaner indoors could lead to a fatality in a matter of minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) concentration in the exhaust is extremely dangerous. You can neither see nor smell CO and you may end up breathing it without realizing it.
Things to consider are:
- Don’t use gas pressure washer inside your home, a garage, or partially enclosed areas as carbon monoxide can rise up to unsafe levels. Opening doors and windows or using a fan will not supply a sufficient amount of fresh air.
- You can use the gas pressure cleaner only outdoors. Also, it needs to be positioned away from doors, open windows and vents.
- Correct usage of engine does not ensure that CO will not creep into your home. Ensure that you use battery powered CO in your home. Should you feel sick, dizzy immediately leave the area and get some fresh air. You may need to visit a doctor as you might have CO poisoning.
Since water is a good conductor of electricity, exercise care in using an electric pressure washer. Using an extension cord is not advised as that will reduce the efficiency of GFCI. Don’t ever spray water on an electric outlet. Follow safety instructions to avoid getting an electric shock. Do check the electric cord for damage before each use.
Ensure that you plug your electric pressure into a GFCL outlet to minimize the chances of getting a shock. Avoid spraying near power lines, circuit boxes, telephone junction boxes and other outdoor fixtures.
Keep Away From Ladders & Heights-
Now get this:
You can use a pressure cleaner only if you are standing on ground or flat surface. Never ever, I repeat never try to operate it if you are on a ladder or roof. Why do I emphasize this point?
Recoil from the initial spray or sheer pressure of water striking against a wall can push you back. You will lose the stability and eventually fall down.
So how can you pressure clean second storey?
Use a pressure washer extension wand, if you want to get better reach.
Let’s look at the pressure washer maintenance tips in detail:
- Always maintain your pressure washer according to the instructions provided in the manual. While carrying out the maintenance drill, do unplug the machine from the power source.
- Overfilling while changing or replacing oil in the engine crankcase is a BIG NO. This can cause problems like hard staring, smoke, oil saturation of the air filter and spoiling of the spark plug.
- The electric cord and hose must be frequently reviewed. A damaged hose needs to be replaced, as it cannot be repaired. Allow the machine to cool down before stowing it away for storing.
- Ensure that built in safety features like thermal relief valves and unloaders are in good working condition. This will help prevent injuries.
- Seek the help of a professional to service and maintain the unit. Don’t use a power washer that is not fitted with a Residual Current Device. Make it also a point to check the RCD first, every time you use the pressure washer.
- Remove or seal all electrical points and outlets before pressure cleaning.
- Don’t use pressure washer if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Hold the spray gun with both hands (atleast during the first 2-3 usages) to get used to the recoil.
- Use detergents specially created for the purpose.
- Refuel the engine after turning it off and waiting for two minutes.
- Exercise caution while using a pressure washer as it gets very hot with extended use.
- After turning off the unit, squeeze the trigger to release any remaining pressure before disconnecting the hoses and nozzles.
- Store as well as transport pressure cleaner in temperatures above 32 degrees F to prevent freezing.
- Never clean the machine with its own gun, as water can damage it and even cause electric shock.
- In case of fuel spillage, dry the area before testing the spark plug or starting the engine.
What to do if you are injured by a pressure washer?
- Call 911
- Wash hands with soap and water and attend to the wounds.
- Remove any object preventing you from treating the wound.
- Use a strip of clean cloth to apply pressure on the wound and steam the bleeding.
- Once the bleeding stops, pour clean running or bottled water over it.
- Carefully clean the area around the wound with soap and water.
- Put an adhesive bandage or a dry and clean piece of cloth over it.
- Unclean wounds are to be left open.
People with high-pressure wounds need urgent medical care and attention. Trained medical professionals will be able to x-ray the wound and administer tetanus and anti- biotic shots or even send for a specialist.
A pressure washer is very powerful and an effective cleaning device. However, as with anything powerful, the people using it need to be careful in doing so. Make sure to adhere to the recommended safety norms. You would be able to reap the full benefit of this powerful piece of machinery without any problems. Trust me. It’ll all be worth it.
Carelessness however could cost them dear and should be totally avoided, as there are no margins for error with pressure washers.