202337 - Pressure washer risks

26 Jul 2023 MARS

On a vessel underway, two engine room crew were detailed to clean the engine room ventilator water mist catcher using a pressure cleaner. The job progressed without incident and afterwards, the two crew proceeded to clean the carbon and other debris on the poop deck.

One of the crew was holding the lance of the pressure washer when he inadvertently pressed the trigger. The sudden pressure surge produced a hydraulic kick-back force in the lance, and the water jet hit him on his left leg just above the knee. The victim screamed and released the trigger and the lance. The other crewmember immediately stopped the pressure washer.

Lifting the coverall to reveal the injury showed that there was bleeding from a wound created by the high pressure water stream and that a small portion of the flesh in that area was missing. The victim was given first aid which was, in this case, sufficient.

Lessons learned

  • A pressure washer is like a loaded gun. The water forces generated can cause severe injury in contact with a person’s body
  • If a pressure washer is on, always hold the lance with both hands to have full control. Never point the lance at yourself or others