Rocky platforms

Russel Stuart, Marketing Manager at ZARGES, reminds us about the importance of height safety when cleaning windows.

The recent distressing visuals of two window washers being stranded on a wildly swinging platform at the top of a 50-storey skyscraper in Oklahoma created plenty of headlines. The out- of-control platform shattered glass on the building, prompting firefighters to evacuate the streets surrounding the tower

The incident has also acted as a stark reminder that we should never take clean windows for granted. And this issue of safety when working at height while cleaning windows is potentially even more important now than it used to be a decade ago. Luckily, both window cleaners were successfully ushered back to safety by a team of fearless emergency responders.

Interestingly, while the technology supporting window cleaning for taller buildings has evolved over the past decade, high levels of air pollution in major cities have meant that dirty windows have to be cleaned on a regular basis. Buildings in major cities are also becoming less standardised – with unique designs creating unique window cleaning challenges.

Named one of the world’s toughest jobs, skyscraper cleaning is naturally one of the best paid and thrilling jobs out there. Imagine juggling window squeegees and cleaning agents while simultaneously keeping your hands free to work your way from one surface to another?

These challenges have created specific requirements for a safe working environment when cleaning windows at height: a workplace that offers a great deal of mobility in addition to having space for storing work tools.

When talking about cleaning windows at height, we cannot ignore the biggest concern: the risk of falling. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), approximately 609,000 cases of reportable work-related accidents occur in the UK each year. These accidents aren’t restricted to mobile platforms, and often involve ladders.

And, though rare, the most common cause of fatal accidents at work is falls from height.

What is the solution, you may ask? Mobile work platforms or ladders that are customised for specific jobs, environmental conditions and locations could provide an answer to the problem.

When selecting your equipment, ensure your ladders or platforms have stabilising legs or bars that prevent toppling over, feature special anti- slip treads with perforations to drain liquids quickly and are made to the latest EN131 Professional standard. Mobile platforms and ladders used for cleaning windows should be built of material that can be used in situations where corrosive chemicals can be present, and that are durable enough to perform safely in all weather conditions for work outdoors.

Environmental influences such as ice, snow, high levels of humidity and the probability of strong winds should also be taken into account, as they might strongly impair the slip resistance of a mobile platform or a ladder.

It’s also important to ensure that you have both the necessary quality equipment, and that it is in good condition before starting any work at height. It is recommended that mobile platforms and ladders are subject to a pre-use check, as well as more detailed inspection at least once every three months.

In order to ensure equipment is safe, companies should ask their safety officer to perform a risk assessment as soon as possible. Effective safety management requires an individual risk assessment to take into account various factors before carrying out a task involving mobile platforms or ladders. These factors include the purpose of use and duration of the activity.

In light of the recent news and growing concerns regarding working at height,


ZARGES emphasises the importance of regularly inspecting equipment used for window cleaning and ensuring that the quality of those access systems is never willingly overlooked or compromised.

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