As the UK MAIB describes in its latest Safety Digest, the jet of water from the pressure washer lance penetrated the operator’s boot just behind the protective steel toecap.
hile alongside in harbour, the crew of a fish carrier vessel started a thorough clean of their fish tanks. The job required the operator to get inside the tanks with a pressure washer lance.
It was a fiddly job as there was not much space inside the relatively small tanks. With the water pressure set to 260 bar, the lance operator went about cleaning the tank. During this work, the jet of water from the pressure washer lance penetrated the operator’s boot just behind the protective steel toecap.
The cleaning operation stopped immediately and first aid was administered. The crew member was then taken to hospital, where they received emergency treatment. The wound was deep but, luckily, between their toes (Figure 2); any further to the left or right and the crew member could have lost a toe.
The company investigation highlighted that the pressure washer lance nozzle was damaged (Figure 3), which resulted in it emitting a very focused jet. It was also identified that other footwear was available on the market that could have provided better protection. Further, the company suspended such cleaning work until a safer method could be established.
- Check: Washing down using high pressure water jets can be hazardous. A thorough check of both the tools and personal protective equipment (PPE) is important to ensure the safety of those involved in the task. Damaged kit can be dangerous and expose users to unassessed risks. Wearing the right PPE can make all the difference. Do not shoot yourself in the foot by using damaged or inappropriate equipment.
- Risk: The tank being cleaned was particularly small with a curved bottom, which meant there was very limited scope for the pressure washer lance operator to keep their feet out of the ‘line of fre’. Risk assessments need to fully consider the practicalities of conducting tasks in confned spaces and ensure that exposure to hazards can be avoided where possible. In this instance, an ideal solution would have been the identifcation of an alternative method for cleaning the tanks that eliminated the need for crew members to enter them at all.
- Revise: A thorough analysis of accidents and near misses can lead to benefcial changes such as improved crew safety. In this event, the company’s proactive response resulted in the identification of more appropriate PPE and a change of practice and procedures for operations across its fleet.