Although many people pay little attention when choosing who to use to clean the windows at their shop, office, school or similar commercial premises, it is in your interest to do so.
Unfortunately, when accidents take place, more often than not it is because of a breach of health and safety legislation and the case is then passed to the Health and Safety Executive. Following an investigation, they then have the right to penalise the window cleaning company, but also the company where the service was being carried out.
For example, there was a case a little while back of a window cleaner working over 100 feet in the air, without the use of a harness or any sort of protection! He hung loosely from the ledge, seemingly without a care in the world, and polished one window before hopping carelessly to the next. It goes without saying, that this kind of work attitude is incredibly risky and could put not only the worker’s life, but the lives of others in a serious amount of danger.
What’s more, there have been several occasions where window cleaners have fallen and severely injured themselves. The recent case of John Summerhayes highlights the risks of window cleaning in unsafe conditions.
John was cleaning the windows of Steiner School, Canterbury, when the accident occurred. While reaching over too far, John lost balance and plummeted a staggering 18ft to the ground. Paramedics soon discovered that the window cleaner had broken his pelvis and needed urgent surgery. Luckily, John survived the horrific fall, but you can’t help but to think… had John simply provided himself with the correct protection and support, this would never have occurred in the first instance.
However, as well as the obvious injuries that window cleaners can face when not being careful enough, if the customer has not taken the necessary precautions and considered ways of reducing the risks on site, there can be very costly penalties.
Not only is it in your best interests to make sure your window cleaner is safe, it is also your responsibility as a company or institution to do so. The UK takes health and safely extremely seriously, and not hiring fully certified staff and ensuring you minimise risks on site could lead to severe prosecution.
Whilst the window cleaning company should be carrying out their own risk assessment and method statement (RAMS), there is nothing preventing you from doing so also. Ask yourself if there is anything at your premises that could cause an accident? Remember the window cleaners do not know your premises so it is important to advise them accordingly.
Make sure you use a window cleaning company that has the necessary documentation and takes health and safety seriously. A window cleaner is no different from any other type of tradesperson that may carry out work at your premises. When using a plumber or electrician, for instance, it is common practice to ask to see the ID, insurance documents and other documentation to prove their profession and qualifications.
Those window cleaners who take care to abide by Health and Safety legislation will identify the appropriate cleaning methods to ensure compliance with The Work at height Directive 2005 (whether it is ladders, water fed poles or a mobile platform), provide RAMS and use signage to advise the public that window cleaning
If you fail to check whether the potential window cleaner ticks all the boxes, you could be putting yourself and your company in serious risk if there is an accident.
As well as the above, there is also the issue of your company’s reputation. If you were to be found guilty of not making sure all your employees are safe in the workplace, the negative publicity could be damaging. Take all the advised steps and make sure this doesn’t happen.
With Laddersfree, we put each and every one of our window cleaner’s safety first. Additionally, we believe that when a window cleaner is working under the proper conditions, they will do the best possible job. We have CHAS accreditation and are Safe Contractor certified and abide with all health and safety legislation.
Remember, it is your obligation to make sure you are using a window cleaning company that abides by health and safety legislation.
By Jason Korinek.