Over the past few years, high-pressure water cleaning has become more common. In fact, it has even replaced the need for sandblasting sometimes. There are different uses of hydroblasters like grease removal, paint removal, log debarking, cleaning off sidewalks, rodding of heat exchangers, and tank cleaning. These all sound like very simple tasks, but it’s important to remember that danger exists if hydroblasters aren’t used properly.
The pressurized water (10,000 psi, or even 45,000 psi in larger units) is carried out through a flexible steel braided hose, and is discharged through a pipe known as a lance, which consists of an orifice at the end. This creates a cutting action (when the water jet exits the orifice, it acts just like a band saw). Sometimes, gloves, boots, and other protective clothing is cut by this high pressure in just a fraction of seconds. The jet can also cut your hand or foot, and may result in severe injury.
You may feel like hydroblasting is a bit scary and dangerous — and it definitely can be! However, if proper procedures are followed (despite the hazards), the operation of hydroblasters can be carried out safely. Some precautions include:
- Only a trained person is allowed to operate this equipment.
- No one is allowed to use this equipment without using proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as a hard hat, full face shield, hearing protection and waterproof gloves, etc. Be sure to speak with a Supervisor around any PPE requirements during this task.
- Deadman switches/triggers should never be altered. This is because if the lance is dropped, it will result in whipping out wildly, which could be the cause of some serious injuries.
- To ensure the operator doesn’t accidentally point it at themselves, the lance should be a minimum of 36 inches long.
- Sometimes, horseplay could result in serious consequences so it is important to not to point a lance at other workers.
- Only clean water should be used since raw water could contain ammonia, nitrogen, and chlorine that may be dangerous to inhale (especially in a confined space).
- Handle the hoses with care when you are laying them – and check for the manufacturer’s maximum operating pressure, and serial number.
As mentioned, when precautionary measures are taken, then operating a hydroblaster can be done safely. Furthermore, if you don’t know how to operate them or if you’re not familiar with the correct safe work procedures while using this equipment, be sure to speak to your Supervisor.