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Safety as standard


Craig Mawlam, Chairman of Ionic Systems, discusses how to ensure safety for window cleaners.


Since launching the Reach & Wash system in 1997, but probably since long before then, I always seem to be banging on about safety in window cleaning.


I honestly thought that working from the safety of the ground using waterfed poles would transform the industry, moving it away from being notoriously dangerous.


Whilst it’s true that fatalities and serious injuries associated with ladder accidents has reduced, they have not been eradicated. It’s true that ladder-mounted window cleaners are a dying breed, however it never ceases to amaze me how window cleaners find new and interesting ways to put their lives at risk.


In 2003 my company, Ionic System, responded to the very clear danger posed by poorly installed water tanks in vans by crash testing our van mounted systems to the safety standard FMVSS-208. To date, and despite several serious road traffic accidents (RTA’s) and at least one fatality, Ionic Systems remains the only waterfed pole company to provide a safety certificate to customers issued by the testing facility (Thatcham) to FMVSS-208.


Electrocution and falls from height have several things in common:


1. Once electrocution or a fall occurs, death or serious injury is certain to follow.


2. Such needless and avoidable accidents are devastating to families, colleagues and those who witness them.


"It never ceases to amaze me how window cleaners find new and interesting ways to put their lives at risk."


3. Legal and financial costs are extremely high.


4. Window cleaners still seem willing to take risks and suppliers are complicit.


Waterfed poles have revolutionised window cleaning, eliminating the risk of falls from height worldwide. Sadly however, electrocution of window cleaners has become the new danger, as several have lost their lives while many others have suffered terrible burns and suffered life changing nerve damage.


Whilst some waterfed pole suppliers added aluminium handles to their carbon fibre waterfed poles (as carbon fibre conducts electricity), Ionic Systems has added insulated glass fibre handle sections that conform to BS:8020.


BS:8020 is the internationally recognised safety standard for Tools and Equipment that may come into contact with electricity. Our Protector Pole handle is tested to ensure that no current can be transmitted to the user when 10,000 volts is applied to the pole. Ionic’s in-house testing provides a 10-1 safety factor over the BS:8020 standard that calls for tools to be protected up to 1,000V ac or 1,500V dc.


The Protector handle adds 400g to the weight of a pole and for this reason, for the past two years, Ionic has offered the Protector Safety Handle as an optional extra for its carbon fibre pole offering. However recently, following the sad news of another window cleaner’s loss of life by electrocution, Ionic has decided to supply, free of charge, Protector pole handles with every carbon fibre pole it sells.


For the safety of window cleaners everywhere, it is my sincere hope that Ionic has set the safety standard that others will seek to achieve.


For me the thought of what electrocution entails is too awful to contemplate. Safety should come as standard and once again my company, Ionic Systems, is leading the way for safety in window cleaning.


www.ionicsystems.com 58 | WINDOW CLEANING & WORKING AT HEIGHT twitter.com/TomoCleaning


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