The industrial pressure washer is a handy power tool; it is more than capable of making short work of many arduous tasks, including cleaning vehicles. However, power washers can be dangerous if improperly used. The water spray generated is at tremendous pressure, and it cause serious injury if treated carelessly. Below are some guidelines for safely using power washers:
- Never aim the spray at another person or yourself – the water spray from a power washer may only sting from a few feet away, but it can cause traumatic injuries at close range. The tiny water molecules in the spray can penetrate deep into a person's skin and underlying tissues in just a split second. At first glance, an injection injury may not look serious or even cause more than minor discomfort. However, significant internal injuries often occur, particularly when cleaning agents are mixed with the injected water. These injuries typically require intensive medical care, and in some instances, limbs must be amputated to contain the damage done.
- Firmly grasp the spray wand at all times – most power washers have a hand-held wand that utilizes a squeeze trigger for operation. Some may have a trigger-lock so that the washer can spray continuously without operator fatigue. However, if a wand isn't held tightly, it can lash itself free from the operator's hand and become a dangerous, whipping object. Use gloves when using a power washer to provide extra grip, and never turn on a washer without having firm control of the wand or making sure the trigger isn't locked into its 'on' position.
- Always protect yourself and others from debris – since power washer spray is often directed at dirty or dusty surfaces, it can send tiny particles flying into the air at high speeds. You should always wear safety glasses or goggles to keep these objects from entering your eyes. In addition, wear a dust mask or respirator if you are spraying materials that may contain caustic or acidic residues. Be alert as to who may be standing nearby, or behind a vehicle, so you don't direct foreign debris their way, as well.
- Keep the water spray away from electrical devices and power lines – as you know, water and electricity make poor companions. That's why it is critical that you don't aim the water spray at any electrical devices, including power lines and cables. Be sure to properly shield circuit breaker panels and wiring, and post appropriate warnings about electrical shock dangers in the area. If necessary, temporarily turn off electrical power if you can't avoid spraying in close proximity to a potentially-hazardous device.
- Wear appropriate shoes – though a pair of flip-flop sandals may feel comfortable on a warm day, they are far from adequate protection when operating a pressure washer. Rubber-soled shoes with a non-slip tread will help keep you from slipping and falling as you work around wet pavement. In addition, always wear shoes with thick tops to prevent accidental injection injuries. Finally, rubber-soled shoes can serve as an electrical insulator and prevent or lessen the intensity of an electrical shock.
- Inspect the power washer and accessories – before turning on a power washer, especially after it has been stored for an extended period of time, be sure to thoroughly inspect it for potential safety hazards. In particular, look at the full length of the high-pressure hose to check for holes, cracks or separation of the hose layers. In addition, check all connections between the hoses, wand, and pump and tighten any loose fittings with a wrench. If the power washer is gasoline or diesel-powered, inspect the motor for worn components or fuel leaks before use.