The International Window Cleaning Association, which has a longstanding regulatory relationship with OSHA, now has a new field safety guide that breaks down best practices in easy terms for high-rise window washers.
Whether hanging off the side of a building or using a powerful chemical, professional window cleaners have a lot of safety concerns on the job.
And when things go wrong, they can go wrong dramatically. Earlier this year in Hawaii, for example, a newly minted window washer starting his first day on the job lost consciousness while hanging from the side of a skyscraper. His coworkers, attempting to keep the man up, were struggling with exhaustion themselves. To recover the men, firefighters had to break an eighth-story window.
With such incidents in mind, the International Window Cleaning Association has published a new online safety guide to explain the risks of professional window cleaning and provide guidance for staying safe on the job.
The guide details tactics cleaners can use to prevent falls, ensure the proper use of razor blades and chemicals, deal with emergency situations such as earthquakes and medical incidents, and keep building occupants and the public safe.
“The purpose of this field guide is to provide you with a list of the major recognized safety hazards which may be encountered during professional window cleaning,” the website states. “This field guide also provides some of the key best practices to address these hazards and help you stay safe on the job.”
The guide is a product of IWCA’s long collaboration with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Before 1991, using rope descent equipment in window cleaning was technically illegal because it was not regulated. IWCA reached out to OSHA to make the case for regulating the equipment, and they’ve worked together ever since.
In November, OSHA updated its Final Rule on Walking and Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems for General Industry. “As much as possible, OSHA aligned fall protection requirements for general industry with those for construction, easing compliance for employers who perform both types of activities,” OSHA said.