The Best Window Washer Tools for Prioritizing Safety
For many industries, when it comes to new construction or facility remodels, you can count on windows and glass in the design given its positive impact of occupants, cost-effectiveness and physical properties. The architects behind these projects are taking into considerations factors, such as:
- Natural lighting from glass has a positive psychological effect and helps improve work efficiency and performance in offices and schools.
- Natural light reduces the artificial lighting output required during the day.
- Efficient glass provides energy and utility bill savings when working with efficient mechanical, electrical and plumbing
- Glass can make any building look more impressive and modern.
But with more glass also comes more window cleaning. For professional window washers, this means they’ll continue to face different safety and health hazards, whether performing ground or suspended work. Thankfully for ground crews specifically, many of the dangers can be minimized through the ground-based commercial window cleaning equipment they choose and their employers’ commitment to safety first.
Why a Safety First Approach to Window Cleaning
Given the nature of their jobs and working environment, professional window cleaners are continually exposed to the risk of slip and fall accidents, injury from physical strain and adverse reactions to cleaning chemical solvents. Looking at just ladder-related fall incidents, the World Health Organization reported that the United States leads the world in ladder deaths. Each year, there are more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries and 300 deaths in the U.S. that are caused by falls from ladders, most from falls of 10 feet or less. Aside from falls, using a ladder improperly, using a faulty or defective ladder, and simple carelessness all increase the chance of injury when performing window cleaning tasks.
Other on the job hazards associated without indoor and outdoor window cleaning include:
- Weather: Outdoor window washing is subject to extreme temperatures, windy conditions, and inclement weather.
- Chemical Cleaners: When using a window cleaning solution, staff and occupants are exposed with some jobs requiring PPE.
- Electrical: Window washers have to be aware of exposed outlets, electrical fixtures, and power lines in the work area.
Employers’ Responsibilities to Window Washers
The Occupational Safety and Health Act is a law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1970 to ensure safe workplace conditions around the country. Under OSH law, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace, including making sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment and properly maintain this equipment. Before any work is started, the employer is accountable for making sure all equipment and tools pass inspection and are properly maintained.
It’s also the employer’s responsibility to provide the necessary training to make sure that equipment is used properly and according to manufacturer guidelines, and that cleaning methods and procedures are executed correctly. Adherence to this law helps ensure a safer window cleaning experience that protects staff as well as building occupants and passersby.
Window Cleaners’ Responsibility to Mitigate the Risk of Slips, Trips, and Falls
Before tackling indoor or outdoor window cleaning tasks, the professional has their own responsibility to minimize the risk of injury and can employ the following to mitigate potential hazards:
- Keep the cleaning bucket and window cleaning accessories tools out of the way of foot traffic. To get your bucket off the ground, utilize a cleaning bucket that hooks onto the ladder or a bucket on a belt. A bucket on a belt tool can hold the squeegee, washer and scraper at your side, reducing the need to climb up and down the ladder to grab tools resting on the ground.
- Keep telescopic poles and waterfed poles collapsed and out of the way of traffic. When selecting an extension pole, look for poles that are designed with an end cap that prevents it from easily falling over into trafficked areas. While any pole can be propped up when not in use, a small but important design feature can keep it from becoming a tripping hazard.
- Source ground access equipment used for commercial window cleaning. Waterfed pole usage reduces the number of ladder-related falls and injuries. With ladder restrictions and insurance issues related to fall risks, water-fed poles are becoming more and more widespread. Not only safer but completing cleaning tasks from the ground is also much faster. Telescopic and water fed poles keep workers safely on the ground while reaching heights up to 65 feet, making easy work of high rise window cleaning, both indoors and out, without the use of a ladder. They can also be used with a variety of cleaning attachments, such as window washers, squeegees, scrapers and brushes.
- Even with the best window washing tools in hand, there may still be situations when a ladder is required. If so, it’s in your best interest to follow the safety guidelines for proper portable ladder usage provided by the Occupational and Health Safety Administration (OSHA):
- Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.
- Avoid electrical hazards! – Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.
- Always inspect the ladder prior to using it. If the ladder is damaged, it must be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.
- Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing. Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing.
- Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.
- Ladders must be free of any 3-Point Contact slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.
- Do not use a self-supporting ladder (e.g., step ladder) as a single ladder or in a partially closed position.
- Do not use the top step/rung of a ladder as a step/rung unless it was designed for that purpose.
- Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.
- Do not place a ladder on boxes, barrels or other unstable bases to obtain additional height.
- Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.
- An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support. Do not stand on the three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder.
- The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.
- A ladder placed in any location where it can be displaced by other work activities must be secured to prevent displacement or a barricade must be erected to keep traffic away from the ladder.
- Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.
- Do not exceed the maximum load rating of a ladder. Be aware of the ladder’s load rating and of the weight it is supporting, including the weight of any tools or equipment.
Sourcing a Professional Window Cleaning Solution
Understanding that clean windows inside and outside a facility is a dangerous job, sourcing the best window washer tools is critical. Click here to read about what to look for when sourcing indoor window cleaning tools and here for guidance on selecting the best outdoor professional window cleaning solution.