Pressure washing is a type of cleaning system that uses high-intensity water pressure to clean off materials or debris from surfaces where normal cleaning methods either would not work, or would be too time intensive or dangerous to undertake.
Whilst pressure washing can be very effective, the very nature of how it works means that it carries a certain amount of risk with it, which needs to be managed in order to maintain the health and safety of everyone involved in the process. It is important that anyone using such a system is properly trained in all aspects of how to use it
Risks of pressure washing
The main risks of pressure washing are often intensified when the work needs to be carry out in a small confined area, which is often the case. There is often a risk of the operative being cut or injured from the jet stream of the water, as well as a risk of injury from debris that is discharged during the cleaning process. There is sometimes a risk of being exposed to hazardous chemicals and biological materials.
These risks need to be clearly identified before any work is carried out, and managed in such a way as to minimise any likelihood of injury or harm to any individual.
Equipment care and maintenance
A big part of minimising the risk of any pressure washing is to make sure that the equipment is always maintained and repaired in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. This should be the responsibility of a designated person, who should keep records of all service checks and inspections.
A pressure washing system will normally consist of a pump unit, various filters and strainers, hose assemblies, nozzles and possibly a high-pressure jetting gun. It is important for anyone who is going to use this equipment to understand how it works and to be able to spot any deficiencies in the system that might lead to it not working properly.
Personal protective equipment
In addition to the pressure washing equipment, the health and safety of the individual or individuals using the system should also involve providing protective equipment when necessary, which should be worn at all times.
Head and eye protection is crucial, and occupational protective helmets should always be worn when required. Safety glasses and a face shield should also always be worn by anyone operating the system, as there is always a real danger of a flow-back from the water jet, as well as a danger of any flying debris hitting the individual in the face.
Other areas of the body also need to be protected, especially if there is any exposure to chemical or biological hazards, or when working with certain materials. It should noted that water pressure systems should not be used in certain scenarios, such as when cleaning any surface that may contain asbestos. This can either be waterproof protective clothing, or liquid- or chemical-resistant suits if a situation warrants it. Hand protection gloves should also be worn when necessary.
There are also risks associated with noise and respiratory problems, stemming from the nature of the work. These should always be assessed and managed in such a way to reduce or eliminate, as far as is practical, any risk to the individual or people using the water pressure system.