Let's face a simple fact; a vast number of windows that need cleaning are out of the reach of hands, poles and even ladders. Windows on office buildings and other commercial facilities can only be reached with special equipment like window cleaning platforms, powered lifts, or even bosun chairs hanging from the roofs with ropes, these are commonly referred to as chairs. In some cities the chairs are subject to local laws; be sure to check with your local OSHA office before you consider using this equipment in your city. Be sure to take safety training classes designed for your geography.
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» Suspended Platforms
» Mechanical Lifts
» Bosun's Chair
It cannot be stressed enough how dangerous all these types of work are, and how a serious focus on safety is an outright requirement. In 2004, thirteen window cleaners died when their SAFETY EQUIPMENT WAS EITHER USED INCORRECTLY, OR NOT AT ALL. When using any of this specialized access equipment, it is imperative that safety harnesses are properly used, and that all parts of the safety equipment are regularly examined and replaced when appropriate. The other links in this section describe the different ways buildings can be accessed, and the safety precautions that must be taken.
Like a hanging scaffold, the Suspended Platform provides a stable work surface for two people. The platform is raised and lowered by climbing steel cables that are secured to davit arms on the roof. The davit arms and their mounting points must be professionally designed and installed. Electric motors at each end of the platform are controlled by the operators and are what raise and lower the platform by actually climbing and descending the steel cables. The workers in the platform must wear fall-prevention harnesses at all times, and their safety lines must be secured to independent mounting points on the roof; if the platform falls, the workers will hang in position until rescued. These suspended platforms are often owned by the buildings and stored on site. They can also be rented by specialist rental companies.
Boom lifts and scissor lifts, and any aerial man-lifts are motorized platforms that Window Cleaners can stand on and manipulate to reach work areas. Safety Harnesses with Lanyards (attached to the lifts themselves) must be worn at all times. These lifts are typically rented by local companies, and are delivered on a large truck. Safety harnesses must also be worn when working in areas where there is a danger of falling vertically further than 6 feet.
These one-person seats can quickly get workers to the desired location. They can typically only go down, so workers must go all the way down to the ground, unhook, then ride the elevator back up. There are several pieces of equipment necessary to safely utilize a chair system:
A Roof Rig is weighted and acts like a temporary davit, and can be easily moved from drop location to drop location along the edge of the roof and then secured; this gets the rope away from the edge of the building. Descent and safety ropes can also be attached to approved anchors on the roof, but rope protectors must be used where ropes go over parapets and other building features.
Termination Plates should be used instead of a knot. Carabiners secure these plates to the approved anchor point. Knots may weaken a rope by about 50%, these termination plates dramatically increase the strength.
Ropes are an integral part of a chair operation; one rope is used to support the worker's chair, another hangs next to the worker and acts as a safety line. The descent line and safety ropes must be attached to different approved anchor points on the roof.
A Descender is a device that attaches the chair to the rope, and actually slides down the rope so the worker can descend in a slow and controlled fashion.
The full-body Safety Harness is worn by the worker. A "D" ring (carabiner) on his back or front attaches to a lanyard which attaches to a rope grab.
Rope Grabs do what their name implies, they grab the safety rope. These quality metal devices can slide up a rope, but can only slide down if manipulated by the worker. The rope grab should always be above the worker's head to shorten a fall.
Suction Cups are stuck to windows and help workers stay in the area where they want to clean.