Water jetting and pressure washing are common practices across FM – so health and safety must be a priority, says John Jones, Vice-President of the Water Jetting Association.


There are many proven practical benefits of water jetting. It is used to clean and de-foul buildings, boats, aircrafts, motor vehicles, production machinery and flooring.

The Water Jetting Association (WJA) has members, both specialist contractors and other companies, that use water jetting in many industries, including property maintenance, manufacturing, petrochemicals, energy generation, utilities, and oil and gas.

Powerful water jetting systems can be bought over the counter, even from DIY outlets. However, all such systems should be treated with respect.

A standard pressure washer can deliver a jet of water well in excess of 100 PSI (7 BAR), which is powerful enough to puncture skin. High-pressure water jetting systems, capable of 2,000 PSI (140 BAR) or more, are powerful enough to cause serious injuries if used incorrectly.

Water jetting training vital This means operatives should be appropriately trained to the right competency. They should also carry out cleaning tasks in accordance with clear policies and procedures, with all activities risk-assessed to ensure they follow a safe system of work.

The kinetic power of water jetting often focusses the minds of operators and managers on physical safety. However, water jetting also carries health and wellbeing risks that, experience tells us, can be overlooked.

In some cases, while the negative consequences might not be as apparent, failure to control health risks related to water jetting may have profound consequences.

Contact with potentially toxic substances and bio- hazardous substances must be fully considered. With water jetting, the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) has a wider dimension.

Bio-chemical hazards associated with objects being water jetted or substances removed need to be identified and understood. In some cases, such materials may be within substrates uncovered by the jetting process.

Risk assess environmental factors The behaviour of materials when struck with a jet of water that can be travelling at hundreds of miles per hour must also be considered.

These substances can be instantly atomised, creating an aerosol that can pervade the operational space and travel hundreds of metres.

Operational conditions may significantly influence risks. These include the power, volume and type of jet being created and the way the jetting equipment is handled and operated.

Other factors include whether jetting is being carried out in a confined space, wind conditions, the design and proximity of surfaces being jetted, and the angle of jetting.


Preparing method statements that account for these factors is essential to protect health. Incorporating environmental factors into point of works risk assessment is also crucial.

Regular checks and testing of personal protective equipment, and respiratory protective equipment is important to give operatives nose, mouth and eye protection against bacteria, viruses and potentially toxic substances.

Consideration should be given to the need to protect others near the worksite by erecting screens to contain debris and airborne aerosols. Material removed by water jetting must be safely contained, then responsibly treated, recycled or disposed of, remembering that, once dry, particulates can form dust, that could be inhaled.

Practical training to test skills These processes should be supported with appropriate training and education. The WJA’s training is delivered by registered and approved training providers and is accredited by City & Guilds.

Courses include Safety Awareness (one day, class-based) that introduces delegates to the principles of water jetting, types of water jetting equipment, key safety issues, and safety techniques.

There are also one-day practical courses, including Surface Preparation, Drain & Sewer Cleaning, Tube and Pipe Cleaning and Hydrodemolition. There is also a WJA course for pressure washing.

Theoretical and practical training is fundamental to giving operatives the skills and insights to identify often subtle and complex health risks when cleaning with water jetting.

Training, and the qualifications it provides, also helps give operatives the confidence and authority needed to mitigate those risks.

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