June is National Safety Month, recognized annually by the National Safety Council. All month long, we’re taking a close look at the best practices and safe behaviors to help you and your staff stay safe when using your cleaning equipment. Let’s start by taking a look at equipment safety – and what can happen if you aren’t safe.
Before we discuss your actual equipment, let’s take a moment to emphasize the importance of safety gear. Many people take a casual approach to safety apparel – it can be clunky, it can be cumbersome, and it can seem like a pain in the … well, you know. But the fact of the matter is that your safety gear actually is incredibly.
Wearing the right clothing when pressure washing can prevent injuries – hands down. Whether it’s from loose debris that is thrown by a washer or the potential for exposed skin to come in contact with a caustic detergent or cleaning solution, wearing protective gear can keep you safe and let you focus on doing the best job of cleaning, and not cleaning up an unintentional wound.
Take, for instance, this story shared by one of our partners. A small pressure washing company took a lackadaisical approach to safety gear, and allowed employees to do their work in tennis shoes, not work boots. One day while spraying, a worker accidentally got the wand and nozzle tied up in his shoe laces, spraying the scalding hot water into his shoes. The worker ended up with severe burns before his coworkers were able to shut off the washer, and everyone learned the importance of wearing the appropriate clothing and footwear for the job.
Bypassing Safety Features
In much the same way that some take a casual approach to safety apparel, some also take a relaxed view of built-in safety features that pressure washers include. Safety features can sometimes seem like they’re designed to slow down operations, particularly if you’re trying to cut corners and speed up the job. But the truth is there in the name – safety features.
Sometimes lessons have to be learned the hard way, as was the case for one large construction company. The work crew was on a job and wanted to fill a large tank with superheater water, while leaving it unattended. On their pressure washer unit, however, was a pressure switch, designed to ensure that the flow of water was manually controlled. Instead of filling the tank manually, the workers bypassed “All Safety Features,” disabling the pressure switch, but also the high limit switch, thermostat and – on top of it – even plugged the pressure relief valve. It worked fine for filling the tank, but they forgot to restore the safety settings.
A little bit later, another employee put the wand back on and started to work on normal cleaning. As he was washing, he released the trigger and set the gun down, but the burner was still on. One of his coworkers heard a noise coming from the pressure washer and went to investigate, but upon approaching the washer, it overheated and resulted in a steam explosion. The horizontal burner housing flew off the washer and hit the worker in the face, causing severe injuries. He was transferred to the ER by helicopter, and – needless to say – the rest of his crew learned the importance of safety.
Hoses are a vital part of pressure washing, carrying the water from the source to the pressure washer and on through to the spray wand. They’re used on every job and moved all around each worksite, while also being exposed to extreme heat, detergents, chemicals and more. It’s not surprising that they also tend to be one of the most commonly worn out parts of a cleaning system, and wear more quickly than other components. It’s also why they deserve a bit of extra attention to ensure your safety on the job.
In a bit of a change from the last stories, we once heard the tale of a client who was working on a cleaning project who kept getting harassed by bugs – not uncommon in the warm weather. He would spray for a while, but kept feeling a bug landing on his cheek or neck, but buzzing off as soon as he moved. He was smart and didn’t try to smack it with the wand, but instead looked at the wand and noticed something strange – a pinhole leak. It wasn’t a bug at all – it was a tiny jet of water that kept spraying backwards.
If he hadn’t noticed it, it could have erupted, tearing the wand from the hose and possible spraying him with high-pressure water. Fortunately, he caught it, but it’s just one example of why inspecting your equipment needs to be a high priority.
Using the Wrong Nozzle
Of course, it’s also important to use the right tool for the job. As we’ve discussed before, this is particularly true when it comes to nozzles. There are a number of mechanical reasons to pick the correct nozzle, and using the wrong one can put undue strain on the pressure washer and damage equipment. But using the wrong nozzle can also end up being costly.
In one case, a young employee of a pressure washing company thought he’d have a little bit of fun on the job and sprayed an inappropriate image on a soiled wooden deck as he started working. He then reduced the pressure, and set about doing a complete clean of the wooden surface, spraying down the whole deck to remove the old stain and dirt.
Much to his surprise, however, he had been using a 0-degree nozzle the whole time, and that innocent bit of fun ended up etching into the wood, permanently damaging the surface and leaving the trace of his prank apparent. Needless to say, the owner saved a few dollars on his salary, but lost much more in replacing the damaged deck.
Other Equipment Safety Concerns
There are many other things to stay mindful of when using pressure washing equipment. These powerful machines are great at cleaning, but as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Be mindful of the following factors, as well, when working on any job site:
• Hot heating coils
• Incorrect fuel mixtures or overfilling
• Incorrect hose fittings or damaged connections
• High voltage lines or outlets near water
• Hot nozzles and spray wands
• Chemical and detergent exposure
Safety Is a Vital Part of CLEAN
The CLEAN model is designed to help you clean any surface more efficiently, more effectively and more safely. Safety is a critical part of success, and ensuring rapid cleaning and continuous uptime for your staff and your equipment. Stay mindful and stay safe – and stay CLEAN.