7 Important Pressure Washer Safety Tips
Personal pressure washers are becoming more and more popular in the U.S., as they are relatively affordable and can change a day’s amount of work washing the porch with a scrubber or washing the siding of your house into just an hour or so or relative ease. However, this machinery can cause serious to catastrophic injury if not handled safely, and many people find themselves going to the emergency room on their Sunday afternoon chore. A pressure washer can cause inject water into the body at high pressure which can cause serious injury, nerve damage, or the loss of a finger. Happily, almost all of these injuries are avoidable with the right safety precautions.
It is additionally important to note that most pressure washers have a “kick back”, and it is relatively strong starting at 4000 PSI (some pressure washers go up to 10,000 PSI). This is because the force of water coming out is so strong, it will push the person holding it back with physical force when you turn it on. It is also a good idea to reference a chart of how much PSI is needed to cut through certain materials (for your personal knowledge).
Write down all Hazards & Solutions
This follows a very simple philosophy: you can’t avoid an unknown hazard, and this is not something you want to learn by doing as it could cost you a trip to the hospital (which is pricey!). By writing it down, it helps you commit each idea to memory and consider how to handle them if they should arise. The best way to go about this is to walk around the area you will be working for about five minutes and ask yourself a series of questions: Do I have adequate protection to engage with a pressure washer? What do I do if the machine makes weird noises, pops a leak, or even starts smoking? Are there nearby electrical areas, open windows, or vents? If so, be sure to wrap the electrical equipment in plastic, close all the windows, and cover any vents securely to prevent damage to your house. Is the area clear of other possible hazards, such as toys, bikes, trees, or pets running around? Is the weather acceptable? It is advised not to engage during high rain or wind. Finally, how is your personal health? Are you sleepy or exhausted from the gym, or are you feeling eager and ready to work?
Wear Personal Protective Equipment
Here we have a classic situation of low-risk, high reward. It is easy to cover and protect your vulnerable and often-injured body parts, such as the feet, hands, and eyes, and it will make a huge difference in the rate of injuries that may occur. First, be sure to wear correct safety goggles or glasses. Your eyes are one of the most vulnerable parts of your body – especially when it comes to flying debris – and this will greatly reduce the risk. Enclosed shoes are a necessity; don’t wear flip-flops! Your best option would be steel toe gumboots or work books, but you could settle for closed toed running shoes. Gloves protection the most common injury – your hands. If you are using a gas powered pressure, consider getting ear protection as they are very loud (it is unnecessary for the electric powered ones). Finally, be sure to wear long pants, and flying debris could lacerate your leg if not protected.
Read the User Manual
Each pressure washer is a little different from the others, beyond functionality. They can be powered by gas or electric, have a belt or direct drive, and spray hot or cold water. By reading the manual, you will have everyrhing you need to know. In addtion, the manual should include troubleshooting and safety tips to help you complete your list for step #1. These manuals are usually about fifteen pages long – the length it would take to read it is the amount of time to drink a cup of coffee.
No Gas-Powered Washers in Enclosed Spaces
This is important for two major reasons. First, combustion engines exhaust a poisonous gas called carbon monoxide. If you breathe it in, it can cause symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and headache. So, be sure to use it only where the gas can escape. Additionally, I mentioned earlier that gas-powered machines are much louder than their electric companions. And so, the echoing of sound in an enclosed space could cause serious ear damage if not protected.
Be Aware of Surroundings
Sometimes while you are working, new hazards appear in your area. This can include trip hazards, playing children, moving vehicles, and even pets or animals. While you are working, it is best ot maintain spatial awareness so you are not caught unawares.
Avoid the Red Tip Nozzle
The nozzles of the pressure washer machines are color coded depending on the angle of the water spray that comes out. Do not use the red tip, as this one is at zero degrees. It causes a dangerously sharp jet of water, but does not clean better than the other options.
You can find a yellow tip (15 degrees, good for heavy duty concrete cleaning), a green tip (25 degrees, food for general outdoor cleaning), a white tip (40 degrees, good for easily damaged surfaces and vehicles), and a black tip (65 degree and low pressure, sprays soapy water).
When you are testing a new surface, start with the white tip and spray the surface from a few feet away. If it doesn’t clean, try moving a little closer. If you are about six inches away, switch to the next-smallest tip and try again!
Avoid Ladders & Heights
If you recall from earlier, kickbacks are a result of the high PSI from pressure washers. It is common for you whole body to be pushed back with the force of the water spray. Because of this, it is essential to avoid ladders and other heights where you could fall. If you do need to reach higher, use an extension wand. This solution is safer and avoids unnecessary injury.
After reviewing these safety regulations, you should be ready to start cleaning! If you do wish to buy a pressure washer, the safest best is to check brands here, as this page lists several models from brands that follow all the safety regulations.