Safety Month Highlight – Prevent Accidents with Training
Your pressure washing and cleaning equipment is powerful, and when used safely can make removing dirt and grime a breeze. However, unsafe handling and improper use by employees can lead to accidents and injuries – some severe or life-threatening. As we continue to recognize National Safety Month, an annual campaign of the National Safety Council, let’s take a closer look at some of the worst case scenarios that a bit of training and practicing proper safety could have prevented.
Approach Jobs with a Safety Focus
Before you start any project, it’s important to be mindful of your surroundings. Buried utility lines and overhead power lines are hazards of course, but sometimes a difficult setting can lead to unsafe decisions. For example, extra high ceilings can be difficult to reach, but there are right and wrong ways to approach the job – as one employee learned the hard way.
In one story from the archives, a young service tech volunteered to take care of replacing a worn hose connected to an overhead boom in a large factory setting. Since this was quite high up, and out of the reach of a man lift, the technician worked with another employee to lift the basket system with a forklift. However, this unstable setting led to the basket tipping, slamming into the wall and pinching the man’s arm between the basket and wall.
After-accident reporting found much of what you might expect – the forklift driver was untrained and the lift system was definitely not OSHA-approved. Plus, the whole plan had not been approved by either employees’ supervisor. No one involved had paid attention to safety protocols, and the costs were real – the company had an expensive workman’s compensation claim and the employee was left with permanent nerve damage.
Respect the Equipment
As we’ve often stated, the power of a pressure washer is intense. It can blast away dirt and grime, wash away oil and grease, and loosen asphalt and tar from industrial equipment. This high power is great at cleaning, but it’s important to also know the limitations of what surfaces it should be used on.
In one case, a new employee at a drilling company was working to clean up tools and the worksite at the end of a day on the job. The 5-gallon-per-minute, 5,000 PSI hot-water unit he was using was making fast work of all the mud, grime and oil, so it seemed like it would be a great idea to use the equipment to wash off his soiled work boots. The problem is he was still wearing them.
As the worker turned the nozzle toward his boot, the mud and dirt quickly washed away – as did the leather boot protecting his foot. In seconds, the worker learned a lesson about the power of his equipment, paying the steep price of three of his toes.
Know Your Equipment
Knowing your equipment is critical. That means more than simply knowing its capabilities or what kind of fuel it uses. It means being aware of how it operates, as well.
For example, pressure washers that are powered by a fuel source instead of electricity must combust the fuel to operate. This leads to the emission of noxious fumes, which are often a non-issue when used outdoors. It’s also why these units should never be used inside, as one employee learned.
While using a gas-powered pressure washer to remove paint from the floor of car painting bay, a worker began to feel faint. As he had been washing in the confined space, the fumes from the washer had begun to build, making the air in the room toxic. The worker continued washing, and minutes later passed out from a lack of oxygen. Fortunately, his coworker heard the sound of the man collapsing and came to his rescue, but it served as a hard-learned reminder about the importance of working in a well-ventilated space.
Other Personnel Safety Concerns
Every employee has a responsibility to themselves and their coworkers to work safely while cleaning. While the employees above learned lessons the hard way, a bit of training and refresher meetings can keep your team working wisely. These are a few of the worst-case situations, but there are many other concerns for you and your personnel to keep in mind, including:
• Power lines and overhead fixtures
• Detergent and chemical use
• Maintained safety equipment
• Connections and fittings
• Improper nozzle use
• Modifying equipment or wands
• Spraying near live electrical outlets
Safety + Efficiency + Efficacy = CLEAN
At WET, we know the importance of cleaning efficiently, effectively and – of course – safely. It’s why we believe in the power of CLEAN, a comprehensive approach to training, maintenance and safety to maximize uptime for your equipment and your operations. Learn more about CLEAN and get the help you need to stay on top of maintenance and safe operations by calling WET today at 865.525.1515.