The majority of accidents that happen to window cleaners are due to falls involving the use of ladders. Over the last few years the figures for accidents reported to HSE and local authorities show that between two and seven window cleaners have been killed each year in Great Britain and about 20-30 suffer major injuries as a result of falls involving ladders. Although these figures sound relatively low in the full scale of things, just take a moment to think how many less serious injuries there are due to ladders that result in several days off work. Though a few days off work is appealing to myself, when you’re a self employed window cleaner without sick pay it suddenly hits home the risks you are undertaking each time you go up your ladder. On an average day a window cleaner could go up a ladder over 200 times a day, 1000 times a week !!! 52000 times a year!!! Why risk your livelihood when there is a much safer way to clean windows that makes 99% of windows accessible and gives better results.
In 2005 new working at height regulations came into play which brought into question whether ladders should be used when cleaning windows.
“Every employer shall ensure that work is not carried out at height where it is reasonably practicable to carry out the work safely otherwise than at height” View Source.
In line with these regulations, water fed poles or even traditional extension poles are obvious alternative methods which could be used to avoid the risk of working at height.
In March 2006 the HSE made the following further comments during a seminar at the Windex trade show.
The health and safety executive recognizes that it is unrealistic to expect every window cleaner to adopt new working practices overnight and also accepts that the indusrty accident record is low and is anticipating a period of transition to allow the industry to settle into the adoption of any new working methods needed to comply with the new regulations.
During this period the HSE will expect all window cleaners to consider the safety benefits of using alternatives to ladders and plan to change their work practices where possible.
The HSE will advise shortly as to the length of the transitional period.
The following examples illustrate situations where, provided a proper risk assessment has been done and equipment is properly used, ladder use may be appropriate during the transitional period.
Situations where ladders may be suitable:
On ground floor windows both internally and externally using ‘A’ frame ladders.
Internal of high windows in schools, shopping malls, atriums etc.
Up to and including 1st floor using ladders no more than 6 metres on domestic and small commercial properties.
Removal of heavily impaced soilage. Eg. Builders Cleans
To access windows above flat roofs.
Where the number of windows to be cleaned at height is very small relative to the total, making use of more expensive access or cleaning methods unreasonable (eg. Less than 6 1st floor) on an isolated property.
On city centre red routes and in other areas where you can’t get the waterfed pole van near to the building to be cleaned and trailing hoses would cause a hazard.
On properties where the use of a trolley system is not suitable because of site conditions (i.e steps or other physical obstructions)
On isolated domestic and small commercial premises. (i.e in rural locations where you may have, say only one two houses on a street/housing estate.
On domestic and small commercial premises where ladders are required to access above a flat roof and there is a limited number of 1st floor windows which are not above a roof.
New health & safety legislation (WAHR) – How the window cleaner can comply with the WAHR.
Ian Greenwood – Health & Safety Executive.