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High Pressure Cleaning (On Shore)

The information and recommendations in this fact sheet may change as this oil response and cleanup work continues.
This fact sheet will be revised as needed so make sure you have the latest version.
August 23, 2010

What Is This Job?

Workers use high-pressure water spray (more than 3,000 pounds per square inch, or PSI) to clean oily booms, equipment, and other surfaces. The oil is pushed into retaining areas where it can be collected in tanks.

What Dangers Has OSHA Found For This Task?

OSHA has closely watched workers doing oil spill work and has run tests to see if there are harmful substances in the air. The major risks that OSHA has found for this task are:

  • Heat stress is a very serious risk for workers in the Gulf. It can cause a lot of different problems, from just feeling dizzy or sick to your stomach to fainting and death.
    • Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It causes confusion and you may have seizures (fits), pass out, or even die - Call for medical help right away and begin cooling the person (move them to the shade or air conditioning, douse with cool water, and fan them) while waiting!
    • Heat stress can give you a headache and make you dizzy and very tired. You may pass out, feel sick to your stomach, throw up, and have muscle cramps. Get into the shade and drink water right away! Notify a supervisor and have someone stay with you/coworker because this could become heat stroke
  • Weathered oil on bare skin can cause rashes and oil mist in the air can cause eyes, nose, and throat irritation, shortness of breath, coughing, headaches, and dizziness
  • Pressurized water can damage eyes and cause blindness, and cause severe damage to skin, fingers, toes, and other body parts that come in contact with the water stream
  • Slippery surfaces and tripping over ropes, cords, or hoses can cause you to fall

Other hazards to be aware of include:

  • Sunburn and sun poisoning
  • Drowning when working in or over water
  • Noise at loud levels or certain pitches can cause hearing problems for a short time or can damage your ability to hear for the rest of your life.
  • Back injuries, joint and muscle problems from repeated lifting and bending
  • Motors, winches, pumps, and other machines with moving parts that can strike or crush you
  • Concentrated cleaning agents can cause breathing problems, wheezing, coughing, asthma attack, burning or itching in the throat and nose, itchy skin and rashes.
  • Dispersing agents can cause dry itchy skin and rash, make your eyes sting and burn, cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, nausea, throwing up, feeling drunk, and a metallic taste on your tongue. Over time, these chemicals can harm your liver, kidneys and blood.
  • Exhaust from gas and diesel engines give off carbon monoxide, which can cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, throwing up, blacking out, put you in a coma or even kill you. Exhaust fumes also contain many other harmful chemicals such as carbon dioxide, sulfur and nitrogen mixtures that cause burning or itching in the nose and throat, asthma attacks and other health effects.
  • Bites and stings from bugs, flies and bees can cause hives, breathing problems, allergic reactions, skin sores or diseases, such as West Nile Virus.

What Must My Employer Do To Protect Me?

Employers must provide their workers with a safe workplace. You should report any unsafe working conditions to your supervisor or safety coordinator right away. If you are injured or feel sick, notify your supervisor immediately. For the ongoing oil response and cleanup operations, your employer must have a site safety plan for where you work and share it with you. The plan MUST include:

  1. The training you need to safely do this task.
  2. The work practices you need to use to avoid getting hurt or sick.
  3. The protective clothing and equipment you need when doing this job.
  4. How to report any health and safety hazards, illnesses and injuries.

Your employer must provide you the safety clothing and equipment you need to do your job safely and replace it if it wears out.

What Training Do I Need To Do This Job Safely?

Workers doing this task must take a 4-hour class on Shoreline Spilled Oil Response (Module 3). Supervisors must have additional hazardous waste operations training.

What Work Practices Do I Need To Use?

  • Follow the work-and-rest schedule for your work site based on the weather and the time of day [for example, 20 minutes of work and then 40 minutes of rest (in shade, if possible) each hour].
  • Drink water often throughout the day.
  • Always wear your protective clothing and equipment properly and ask for new equipment if it is worn out and no longer protects you.
  • Use insect repellent with DEET.
  • Apply sunscreen often to exposed skin.
  • Follow the user’s manual instructions for inspecting, using, and refueling the pressure washer.
  • Try to work upwind and away from gas and diesel engines on pressure washer, generators, and other equipment.
  • Use lifting equipment and get others to help you when moving heavy objects.
  • Don't use broken or damaged tools. Turn them into your supervisor so no one else uses them.
  • Keep walk ways and paths clear of electrical cords, cable, ropes and other tripping hazards.
  • Point the water stream away from you and from others as you work. Try to work upwind of the over spray. Always work from the top down.
  • Decontaminate and remove your protective clothing before breaks and at the end of your work shift.
  • Put used protective clothing and other equipment in the proper place.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before eating, drinking, smoking, using a toilet or handling a phone or other personal items.

What Safety Clothing and Equipment Must My Employer Provide (free of cost)?

If you are doing this job, then you need:
Chemical resistant disposable Coveralls Impervious suit for extended oil contact Coveralls that prevent oil from touching skin or soaking through normal clothing.
Sun Hat and Sun Screen Sun hat and sun screen  
Safety Googles Safety goggles Goggles cover the eyes and nearby skin and protect against dust, splashes, impact and flying objects. Only required if your supervisor tells you they are necessary.
Face Shield Face shield Face shields are worn over goggles to provide extra protection from splashes and sprays. Only required if your supervisor tells you they are necessary.
PVC Gloves PVC (polyvinyl chloride, plastic coating) heavy general-duty use gloves For heavy use, thicker PVC gloves (26-40 milliliters) prevent oil, grease and other petroleum products from touching your skin.
Steel Toed Rubber Boots Steel toed protective shoes/boots Steel toed shoes and boots protect your feet from being crushed or being cut by sharp objects.
Steel Toed Rubber Boots Rubber boots Rubber boots or boot covers, also sometimes "Chicken Boots", keep oil or other liquids from touching your skin or shoes.
Hearing Protection Hearing protection -- ear plugs and muffs are worn together for this task Ear plugs or ear muffs protect your hearing from harmful levels of noise. Plugs are worn in the ear, while muffs cover the whole ear. Ear plugs and muffs must be worn together to give enough protection from the noise during this job.
You may also need the following equipment if your specific job or work site requires them. Your supervisor will tell you if you need this equipment.
Hard Hat Hard hat Hard hats prevent injuries from falling objects or bumping your head. Only required when there are overhead or other objects on which you might bump your head.
Hi-Visibility Garment Hi-visibility garment Wearing High-Visibility Garments helps make sure that workers are seen by heavy equipment operators and motorists. Only required when working around heavy equipment and UTVs.
PFDPFD A Personal Floatation Device (PFD) protects against drowning. Only required when working on docks, vessels, and if entering the water or surf.

Do I Need To Wear A Respirator?

OSHA sampling data indicates that using high pressure water on oily booms, equipment, and other surfaces could create oil mist and other chemicals in the air. Because of the way that this task is done, you cannot completely control the level oil of mist and other chemicals by using only the work practices listed and natural ventilation. For these reasons, medium and high pressure washing operations MUST be continually monitored so that your supervisor or safety coordinator can tell you when additional protective equipment, including a respirator, is needed.

The correct respirator for this operation must be at least a P100 DISPOSABLE FILTERING FACE PIECE shown in the picture below:

P100 Disposable Filtering Face Piece

BEFORE you can use a respirator, your employer MUST train you in the proper use of this equipment, and make sure a medical professional says you are physically able to wear a respirator.

How Can OSHA Help Me if My Employer Puts Me at Risk or Does Not Provide Me With the Equipment and Training I Need?

All workers involved in the oil spill response and cleanup have the right to a safe workplace just as they would in any other job. Contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) if you think you job is unsafe, if you have questions about safety and health or if you have symptoms and want to report them. OSHA keeps your information confidential. You may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect your workplace if you believe that your employer is not following OSHA standards or there are serious hazards.

OSHA Protection From Discrimination If You Raise Safety And Health Concerns

You may also file a complaint if you believe you were fired or in any way retaliated against for raising safety concerns to an employer or for participating in safety and health activities. OSHA protects workers who complain to their employer, OSHA or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthful working conditions in the workplace or environmental problems. You cannot be transferred, denied a raise, have your hours reduced, be fired, or punished in any other way because you used any right afforded to you under the OSHA Act.

If you have been punished or discriminated against for using your rights, you must file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the alleged reprisal for most complaints. No form is required, but you must send a letter or call your local Area Office to report the discrimination (within 30 days of the alleged discrimination). You can also call the 1-800 321 -0SHA (6742) and they will connect you to your area office.

This is one in a series of informational fact sheets highlighting OSHA programs, policies or standards. It does not impose any new compliance requirements. For a comprehensive list of compliance requirements of OSHA standards or regulations, refer to Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This information will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. The voice phone is (202) 693-1999; teletypewriter (TTY) number: (877) 889-5627.

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