Pressure washing is an effective and efficient way to clean both residential and commercial properties. When used improperly, it is possible to inflict or suffer from a pressure washer injury. Injuries can range from minor cuts and bruises to full-on lacerations and infections. If you plan to use a pressure washer soon, ensure to arm yourself with safety precautions to prevent injuries.
Pressure Washer Injury: What Are the Risks?
Pressure washing has become a popular method of cleaning across the world. In fact, the global pressure washer market is expected to grow to $3 billion by the year 2030. This doesn’t come as a surprise when you consider how efficient and effective pressure washing is, with more businesses offering such a service and more customers preferring it.
Pressure washing, though, isn’t perfect. While highly favored for its speed and results, pressure washing comes with its fair share of risks, particularly regarding safety. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported an estimated 6,057 cases of pressure washing-related injuries in 2014. Out of those ER cases, 14% resulted in additional hospitalization.
What are the risks of using a pressure washer?
1. Deceivingly Minor Wounds
Pressure washers spray water with such high force that it can cause wounds. These wounds can initially appear minor or trivial, causing someone to delay treatment or not seek it at all. The risk of infection increases due to this. In extreme cases, it can even result in a disability or amputation.
2. Sends Objects Flying
Anyone who has ever worked with or seen a pressure washer in action knows just how powerful it can be. In fact, the force of the water coming out of the jet can knock items over or even send them flying at a rapid speed. These objects can strike other people nearby, resulting in injuries.
3. Electric Shock
It is imperative to handle a pressure washer with care and caution. Users must follow the safety instructions that come with the machine to avoid potential hazards. One of the most common risks associated with mishandling is an electric shock, particularly for electric pressure washers. Electricity and water don’t mix, so taking the proper steps to ensure everyone’s safety is crucial.
4. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
A gasoline-powered pressure washer poses a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, no matter the size. When using such a machine, it is important not to do so indoors or in closed spaces. Even if the space is only partially enclosed, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning still exists. If you need to pressure wash something indoors or in enclosed spaces, make sure to situate the gasoline engine outside.
5. Slip, Trip, and Fall Accidents
This is more of an indirect risk that comes with using a pressure washer, but it is a risk nonetheless. Since pressure washers use water, there is a chance that someone, including you, may slip and fall. People can also trip over components of the machine or the machine itself.
How to Treat a Pressure Washing Injury
First of all, if the injury is serious and warrants emergency help, you must call 911. Heading straight to the hospital is important to avoid worsening the condition. If the injury does not need emergency help but results in an open wound, you should focus on treating the wound.
- Wash your hands with clean water and soap.
- If an object obstructs caring for the wound, promptly remove it.
- Place pressure on the wound using a clean cloth to stop the bleeding.
- Once the bleeding has stopped, wash the wound with clean running water.
- Clean around the wound with soap and water, making sure to be gentle to avoid aggravating the wound.
- Dry the wound using a clean cloth before covering it with an adhesive bandage or another clean cloth.
If the wound is not clean, do not cover it. Keep unclean wounds open to avoid infections.
Even after cleaning the wound, it is still best to seek professional medical care. This way, you can get an x-ray of the injured area, get a tetanus shot, and take antibiotics.
Pressure Washer Safety Tips to Avoid Injuries
As they say, prevention is better than cure. And you can prevent a pressure washer injury by implementing these safety tips.
- Use the pressure washer according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Do not point the pressure washer at yourself or others.
- If you wish to move an object, use your hands. Never use a pressure washer to move an object.
- Wear proper safety gear, including goggles for your eyes, rubber-soled shoes, gloves, and PVC clothing. Never wear flip-flops or go barefoot when using a pressure washer.
- Engage the safety latch when not spraying.
- If you’re pressure washing the roof, use a wand attachment. Do not use a ladder or climb the roof.
- Never use a pressure washer that runs on gasoline in an enclosed space.
- Before using a pressure washer, test the ground fault circuit interrupter to avoid electric shocks.
- Do not remove the grounding prong from the power cord plug of the pressure washer or extension cord.
- If you’re using an extension cord, keep it out of any standing or running water. Use an extension cord that is safe to use in wet locations.
- Never let children use the pressure washer.
- Keep children and pets away from the pressure washing area.
- Never use a pressure washer as a practical joke or for rough play.
- Depressurize the machine before disassembling it.
Managing High Pressure Water Injection Injury
As cleanup operations following a disaster progress, there is a potential rise in pressure injection injuries caused by the use of pressure washers.
The severity of high-pressure injection injuries is commonly underestimated. Despite initially appearing mild, these wounds can lead to severe infections, disabilities, and even amputations if not treated properly. It is essential to acknowledge the potential for serious harm with any device generating pressure exceeding 100 pounds per square inch (PSI).
Swift identification of such injuries is imperative for effective and successful management.
To evaluate injury, make sure to take the following steps:
- Evaluate the wound, which may look small or mild.
- Assess neurovascular status.
- Check if the tendon functions normally.
It is always best to seek professional help when treating a pressure washer injury.
- Conduct an X-ray of the injured area. This will identify any foreign objects or subcutaneous air that may be present.
- Administer a tetanus shot to prevent the risk of a tetanus infection. If the person already has a tetanus vaccination, check whether it is up-to-date.
- Prescribe antibiotics.
- Entrust the injured person to a surgeon as soon as possible. A surgeon can administer probable wound debridement.
- Avoid using digital blocks.
What Are the Types of Pressure Washer Injuries?
Power washer injuries can take several forms. They can be minor cuts, but they can also be serious wounds. Because these wounds don’t appear grave initially, people might brush them off and fail to seek treatment. This will cause the wounds to worsen, so much so that they may even lead to disability or amputation.
What injury can a pressure washer cause?
- Lacerations. This is the most common type of pressure washer injury. Lacerations are deep cuts or tears in the flesh and can result from using a narrow nozzle tip.
- Infections. When a pressure washer cuts through your skin, it can also lead to infections, especially if the cut is deep. Open wounds are susceptible to bacteria and other germs.
- Eye Injuries. In addition to the hands and your lower body, pressure washers can also cause harm from the neck above. Eye injuries, in particular, are more common than you think. Ocular lacerations are very painful and don’t have a good outlook. At worst, you may lose your eyesight.
- Bruises. Bruises are a minor pressure washer injury but can still hurt a lot. These usually happen when you use a high pressure level coupled with a wider nozzle.
- Compartment Syndrome. Compartment syndrome happens when pressure within the muscles increases to unsafe levels. The pressure build-up usually leads to a decrease in blood flow, preventing oxygen from reaching the muscle. Symptoms include severe pain, paraesthesia (pins and needles), swelling, numbness, and limited mobility.
Real-Life Cases of Pressure Washing Injuries
If statistics and hypotheticals aren’t enough to convince you, here are some real-life cases of pressure washer injuries.
The case involves a 32-year-old male who presented to the emergency department with severe right forearm pain after a pressure washer injury. Despite seemingly superficial physical exam findings, immediate X-rays revealed extensive underlying tissue damage, including subcutaneous air dissecting through multiple tissue planes.
This case highlights the importance of using X-rays as an initial diagnostic tool for high-pressure injection injuries to triage and begin appropriate treatment promptly. Major complications of such injuries — including acute compartment syndrome, infection, and potential limb amputation — make early diagnosis crucial.
The patient received intravenous antibiotics and pain management. Ultimately, he underwent a fasciotomy and wash-out due to worsening compartment pressures and infection concerns. The outcome was favorable, with the patient discharged with intact neurologic function and scheduled for outpatient follow-up.
A healthy 34-year-old male sustained hand injuries from a power washer, causing numbness and ischemia in the ring finger. X-rays revealed subcutaneous emphysema. Treatment involved milking water and air bubbles out, warm compress, and antibiotics. The patient regained sensation, blood flow, and color without surgery, maintaining full range of motion. Admitted to the hospital but did not require surgical intervention.
A 60-year-old man suffered finger compartment syndrome from a high-pressure water flow injury during car washing. Severe pain, pale fingertip, and limited motion were observed. Bilateral midline incision for finger fasciotomy resulted in rapid recovery, restoring color, sensation, and normal function. Early diagnosis and decompression are crucial for favorable outcomes in fingertip compartment syndrome caused by high-pressure water injuries.
A 42-year-old male sustained a high-pressure injection injury to his left foot in a water treatment plant. Despite immediate pain, he finished his shift before seeking help. The examination revealed a bleeding open wound with elevated compartment pressures. Admitted due to systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) criteria, antibiotics were administered. X-rays showed no fractures but indicated significant foreign material in the injured area.
A 4-year-old boy suffered a mouth injury while playing with a 2,500 psi power pressure washer, mistaking it for a garden hose. The examination revealed a macerated right tonsillar pillar with minor abrasions. The child, though crying, was easily consoled, and there were no difficulties in swallowing or breathing.
Frequently Asked Questions
I accidentally power washed my foot. What do I do?
If the wound is deep or calls for an emergency, contact 911 immediately or head to the nearest hospital. If you can treat the wound at home, make sure to start with clean hands by washing them with soap and water. Clear any objects obstructing access to the wound. Apply pressure on the wound using a clean cloth to halt bleeding.
Once bleeding ceases, rinse the wound with bottled or clean running water. Delicately cleanse the area around the wound with soap and clean water. Pat dry and cover the wound with an adhesive bandage or a dry, clean cloth. Allow unclean wounds to remain uncovered.
Can a pressure washer cut you?
Yes, a pressure washer can easily cut through the skin. To avoid this, make sure to wear protective gear. Additionally, it is essential to handle the pressure washer properly. Follow the instructions in the manual and practice caution at all times. For total pressure washer safety, it is best to leave the job to a professional.
What are the most common pressure washer wounds?
The most common pressure washer wounds and injuries include lacerations, infections, eye injuries, bruises, electric shocks, carbon monoxide poisoning, slip-and-fall accidents, and even compartment syndrome.
At what pressure will water cut skin?
Most pressure washers can produce water streams up to 4,000 PSI, but even 1,000 PSI can cut skin. To put things in perspective, a water stream of 1,700 PSI can already puncture concrete.
What happens if a pressure washer hits your skin?
It can cause lacerations. In fact, lacerations are the most common high pressure water injection injury. If you don’t know what a laceration is, it’s basically a deep cut or tear in the flesh. This usually happens when you use a high pressure level combined with a narrow nozzle.
Can a pressure washer penetrate skin?
Yes. With enough force and a narrow tip, a pressure washer can definitely cut through and penetrate the skin and flesh.
Can I sue the manufacturer for a pressure washing injury?
Pressure washers typically come with comprehensive instructions and warnings from the manufacturer. If your pressure washer does not come with these, the manufacturer may be liable for harm or injury. A manufacturer may also be found liable if the pressure washer is faulty or poorly designed.
However, if your pressure washer has sufficient warnings and instructions, and you simply failed to read them all, you likely don’t have a strong case. As such, it’s crucial that you read all the instruction manuals and warnings before using a pressure washer.
Can I sue someone over a pressure washing injury?
If someone uses a pressure washer, resulting in an injury or harm to you, you may file a case against them. Keep in mind, though, that there is no guarantee that you will win the suit. You must prove that the person used the machine in a negligent or reckless manner.
Avoid a Power Washer Injury, Hire a Pro
Pressure washing is an accessible cleaning method, with many home improvement stores offering them on a rental basis. Unless you’re an experienced pressure washer, it is always better to hire a professional than to take the DIY approach. Professionals are trained to use pressure washers the right way. They know what they’re doing and have access to safety equipment that helps them avoid a pressure washer injury.
Washh offers safe and professional pressure washing services to both residential and commercial properties. Call us today at 704.321.8000 or contact us online to get a free estimate!
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