Pressure washers are a quick way to clean the dirt and grime from siding, driveways, decks, patios, lawn furniture and other items. But while results may look great, users should beware: Pressure washers are deceptively dangerous.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends several tips to help prevent injuries when operating a pressure washer. Its No. 1 piece of advice: Never point a pressure washer at yourself or other people.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
A pressure washer’s powerful spray is hazardous when misdirected. The high pressure can damage flesh quickly, resulting in serious injuries. Lacerations are the most common injury, followed by bruises, punctures and eye injuries.
The powerful spray from a pressure washer can cause serious wounds that might first appear minor, resulting in delayed treatment and increasing the risk for infection, disability or amputation.
In addition to physical injury, pressure washers pose other hazards.
- The fast, strong spray can throw objects that strike and injure others.
- Electric shock can occur if the pressure washer is not used properly and if safety instructions are not followed.
- Using small, gasoline-powered engines can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not use any equipment powered by gasoline engines inside buildings or other partially enclosed spaces unless the gasoline engine can be placed outdoors and away from air intakes.
- The washer also can cause property damage to any structure you are cleaning. Water can enter homes. Siding can be knocked loose. Windows could be damaged or broken by too much water pressure.
Follow these tips to reduce the risk of injury:
- Always read the owner’s manual and instructions before using the machine. Review the labels on the machine to make sure you completely understand the risks the product poses.
- Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment to decrease the risks of being struck by flying debris – safety glasses, gloves, ear protection, long pants and proper enclosed shoes, for example.
- Never point the spray at someone else.
- If you aren’t actively spraying, use the safety latch on the spray gun to limit the potential for unintentional use.
- Start with the widest nozzle and adjust accordingly to get a better sense of the power of the spray needed. Avoid using the zero percent spray nozzle because its highly concentrated spray increases the risk of injury.
- Look for environmental hazards that may pose a trip hazard – children playing, toys, bikes left out in the yard, for example.
- Test the ground fault circuit interrupter before use.
- If you must use an extension cord, keep the washer’s power cord connection out of standing water. Use a cord rated for use in wet environments.
- Avoid ladders and working at heights. Use an extension wand instead.
- Wear rubber-soled shoes to help provide insulation.
- Don’t cut or splice the washer’s power cord or extension cord(s).
- If the washer trips a circuit breaker, have the machine inspected by an electrician.
Despite the dangers, pressure washer injuries are largely preventable. By following these precautions, you can reduce the possibility of injury.
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Visit your local, independent agent for insurance coverage information and advice.