The power of flowing water carved the Grand Canyon over thousands of years. What we sometimes forget is that water under enough pressure can carve through stone or steel in a matter of moments.

I write this because I know we are all busy and don't always pay full attention when we should be on full alert. All power tools can be dangerous, but a pressure washer can be particularly unforgiving. I know this because I have been careless from time to time myself, and paid the price.

As a member of the UL Committee involved in harmonizing Safety Standards for pressure washers, I learned that improper use of pressure washers has led to death and disfigurement for quite a few folks who were caught by surprise.

One of my customers, a farmer, told me when he bought his last machine that he was using it to skin pigs. He told me that the pressure washer was the fastest and most efficient way to accomplish the task.

Pressures up around 4000 PSI will remove human skin in just a fraction of a second. By the time the message of pain and surprise travel from the injured area to the brain and back to the muscles telling them to move out of the way, the skin is long gone (and also possibly some of the meat). It is not my intention to be graphic for sensationalism, but I have seen and understand how serious these kinds of injuries can be.

Most often hurt are eyes, feet, and hands. Eyes get hit by flying debris from the surfaces we are cleaning. Safety glasses, goggles, or face masks are necessary to prevent being blinded by our own efforts.

I want to focus mostly on flesh injuries to hands and feet here. I have witnessed pressure washer operators wearing open footwear like sandals on the job ? a real invitation to disaster.

Holding something still with a bare hand so you can pressure wash it ? like a trash can or something else light ? is another potential visit to the Emergency Room.

The soil on the surface can become a source of infection in any wound as well. The water, and possibly even the cleaner you are injecting with your pressure washer, may be carrying germs. Contaminated water can be driven down into the muscle where it often leads to infection if it isn?t properly cleaned and treated right away.

Not only can the injury be serious, but the healing time can be weeks and weeks. Any injury might be serious enough that you might not be able to work, too.

First Aid for this kind of accident is to clean the wound thoroughly, apply a germicide ointment, and cover the wound with a gauze bandage.

Prevention is a much better alternative. Wear safe clothing, like rubber boots and gloves. Always aim you gun away from people and surfaces when you first pull the trigger. Never try to hold on to something and pressure wash it, either.

If you know someone who thinks it is too hot out there to be in anything but sandals, shorts and a tank top, please encourage them to carry a digital camera. We can use pictures of their eventual injuries to warn others about the dangers.