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Head for heights: window cleaning safety
The occupational hazards include joint pain, Legionnaire’s Disease, back pain and in extreme cases – death. We’re talking about the risks Window Cleaners find themselves exposed to when carrying out their daily routine.
Window cleaning is probably one of the most dangerous cleaning jobs there is going. Office & General offer a comprehensive window cleaning service to some of the taller buildings in the City – and beyond – and as a result, we take the H&S implications of providing these services extremely seriously indeed.
The majority of accidents occur with working at heights involve cradles and platforms – but the good old ladder is probably the biggest offender. The Work at Heights Regulations of 2005 specifies that if a high-rise task can be carried out reasonably from the ground, then it should be. This, together with the introduction of water-fed poles has improved the situation as many window cleaning tasks are now achievable from the ground.
But water-fed poles themselves prevent dangers including pole sections falling to the ground and injuring the cleaner / passers-by, slips in icy conditions and operator injuries to the arm, hand or back. Even more serious incidents can occur such as if the cleaner were to hit an overhead power line with his pole – or contract Legionnaire’s Disease from the water system.
Work at height
Information and guidance on safe practice when working at height in the cleaning industry.
See also guidance on window cleaning.
There are many examples within the cleaning industry of accidents involving working at height, for example: whilst working on stepladders, overstretching from ladders whilst window cleaning, standing on benches or chairs to clean high surfaces. With a little planning and by using competent people (who have the right experience and training) and the right equipment, these accidents could have been avoided.
What you must do
Work at Height Regulations 2005 (as amended) place duties on employers, the self-employed, and any person that controls the work of others (for example facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height).
As part of the Regulations, duty holders must ensure:
- all work at height is properly planned and managed,
- those involved in work at height are competent;
- the risks from work at height are assessed and appropriate work equipment is selected and used;
- the risks from fragile surfaces are properly controlled; and
- equipment for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.
There is a simple hierarchy for managing and selecting equipment for work at height. Duty holders must:
- avoid work at height where they can;
- use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where they cannot avoid working at height; and
- where they cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to reduce the distance and consequences of a fall should one occur.
- Health and safety topics