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Window cleaning
reaches new heights
For the last hundred years or so, cleaning
windows has always gone hand in hand with
working at height in some form. Mention the
term “window cleaner” to the average person,
and they will usually imagine a man with a
ladder. And indeed, window cleaners have a
wide variety of equipment to work at height
Methods of working at height
The methods that window cleaners use to work
at height range from the simple act of using
portable ladders to access the first floor
windows of homes, to the complex techniques
involved in cleaning the windows of
skyscrapers and city tower blocks.
to abseil down the side of a building, cleaning with long-reaching waterfed poles. As such it
as they go. Rope access can cope with just clearly avoids all of the risks that work at
For low-rise buildings (with windows up to a
about any shape of building, and as yet there is height brings. However, is it really
height of about 5 meters) portable ladders
no building that has been deemed too high for “reasonably practicable?”
have served window cleaners well for many
this type of access.
years. For heights from about 5meters to about
If safety had been the only benefit, waterfed
15 meters, window cleaning companies will
Work at height under fire
poles would probably never have become
usually opt for either a scaffold tower or more
In 2005 following a European Directive, new
popular. The real difference in using a reach
likely, powered access.
laws were passed specifically to regulate work
and wash system over work at height is that of
at height. The Work at Height Regulations
speed. A window cleaner using a reach and
Powered access, or the use of hydraulically
2005 had a major impact on the window wash system can do approximately twice the
operated platforms is often favoured for its
cleaning industry that continues even now. amount of work as one working at height.
faster setting up time and versatility. However,
not all sites can accommodate the size and
For the first time they embodied a principle This being the case, most window cleaners are
weight of a hydraulic machine, and the cost of
that was to fundamentally change the way opting for Reach and Wash not only because
hiring the machine may make the job
window cleaners were to think about work at it is “reasonably practicable” for them, but
uneconomical. Nevertheless, powered access
height. Put simply, the new regulations also more profitable too!
continues to be widely used for window
required that work at height only be performed
Currently, the maximum height water-fed poles
cleaning, especially for irregularly shaped
if there was no other “reasonably practicable”
can reach is about 70 feet (21 metres), so for
heights greater than this the other methods of
For buildings beyond the reach of powered
It quickly became apparent to most window work-at-height continue to be used
access, there are basically two options
cleaners that for the majority of situations successfully. As buildings continue increase
available; suspended access and rope access.
(windows up to about 20 meters) there was an in complexity, it’s likely that we’ll see a growth
alternative that was both reasonable and in the use of rope-access for those buildings
Suspended access systems (or “cradles”)
practical. In fact, thousands of window beyond the reach of the waterfed pole.
include crane-type apparatus to lower a cleaners were already using it instead of
cleaning platform down the side of the working at height for reasons of improved
building. Most cradle systems today are efficiency. This method is called The Reach
electrically operated, and many include and Wash
several sophisticated safety systems.
Window cleaning using a reach and wash
Rope access involves rope access technician system does not involve work at height, as the
using specially designed anchorage equipment operator stays firmly on the ground, cleaning
The future of our cleaning industry | TOMORROW’S CLEANING |
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