Ignorance of pressure cleaner standards is no excuse

Fri, 6 Mar 2020

Industrial operators of high-pressure cleaning equipment are potentially leaving themselves open to claims for damages and charges of negligence simply by not understanding the current Australian and New Zealand Standards.

The equipment is widely used throughout manufacturing and process industries for cleaning both equipment and facilities, as well as in construction, mining and other sectors.

The AS/NZS 4233.1 standard came into force three years ago, with a view to improving the safety of use of high-pressure cleaning equipment throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Where the standard differs from previous versions is in defining two classes of equipment based on the size and power of the unit – Class A and Class B – with different safety requirements for operators.

While the operation of Class A equipment is still subject to the need for proper training, the wearing of suitable PPE and the observation of the normal standards of OH&S behaviour, the requirements for Class B are considerably more stringent.

Importantly, Class B machine operators need to be certified by a registered training organisation. Also, the standards say that there should be two operators per machine: one directing the gun and the other standing by the emergency stop.

While the standards are designed to acknowledge that the potential for damage is greater for a Class B pressure cleaner than for a Class A unit, it is the method of calculation of the output, and the dividing line between the two categories that have left some users of existing equipment in limbo, and potentially in breach of the requirements of the standard.

The important metric is the product of the pressure (in bars) and the flow rate (in litres per minute), expressed in “bar litres”. And the crucial figure is 5600 bar litres: above that and you are in Class B.

Where some users have been caught out is that because the rating is the product of the pressure and the flow, there are some high-flow units at relatively lower pressures that fall into Class B, while a unit with a lower flow and higher pressure would safely fit into Class A.

One manufacturer that has seen this confusion in the marketplace is Aussie Pumps.

According to Managing Director, Warwick Lorenz, “Many pressure cleaner operators using bigger machines, and by that I mean Class B, are in denial about the new safety standards. What’s even worse is that many of the suppliers of this type of equipment also are failing to communicate to the market the details of their product range that fall into the Class B classifications”, said Lorenz.

Australian Pump Industries has run a campaign over the last few years to inform users of the need to be aware of the new safety standards. The company has turned the number of pages of engineering jargon into a simple one-page explanation that enables operators to understand the difference between the two classifications.

The company has also moved swiftly to develop bigger machines that are classified as Class A so that even 5000psi pressure cleaners fall within the Class A category.

“We seem to be the only ones who are really trying to educate operators about not only the dangers and safety aspects of using Class B pressure cleaners and jetters but also, the legal implications,” said Lorenz.

“We hear horror stories about injuries that have been sustained using Class B machines, leading to litigation and major penalties,” he said.

This has even led to some industrial users taking various brands of high-pressure cleaners to Aussie Pumps to have a new pump fitted to enable the unit to meet the pressure and flow criteria for Class A.

This article was first published by Industry Update on 02/03/20.

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