High-Rise Risks: Window Washer Safety is Paramount

High-rise window washing accidents aren't something you probably think about too often, but they're on the rise. From the recent San Francisco fall to the New York City scaffolding incident, major cities all over the world are rediscovering just how dangerous this job really is. In San Francisco, a window washer fell 11 stories from 400 Montgomery St. onto a roof of a moving vehicle. Surprisingly, he survived, although seriously injured. Initial reports were that he somehow managed to avoid breaking any bones.

In NYC, Juan Lizama and Juan Lopez were taken to a hospital for mild hypothermia after a cable snapped on their scaffold while washing windows on 1 World Trade Center. The building, which stands 1,776 feet tall, is America's tallest building. And, while window washing is an important and necessary job, it's also very dangerous at times. If you're a window washer or you manage a team of washers, here's how to protect yourself (and employees) and reduce your risks.

Secure All Scaffolding First
It's easy to get into the habit of your job and forget about safety. Your employer wants those windows washed on time, and you have other deadlines to meet for the building. At the same time, you only get one shot at life, and there are safety procedures in place to protect you.

Securing your moving scaffold before you step out onto it is one of the most important things you can do. Most scaffolding devices have safeties built into them to ensure their proper functioning. Use them.

Secure Stationary Scaffolding
If you're using stationary scaffolding, make sure it's anchored to the ground or to the building before using it. Have a checklist that you complete before beginning your workday. It may take you an extra 5 or 10 minutes to ensure your safety, but it's well worth the effort.

Personal injury lawyers see scaffolding accidents all the time -- most of which shouldn't have happened. And, while many accidents can be blamed on poorly serviced equipment, there are also many instances where the employee is at fault and nothing can be done, from a legal perspective.

Don't assume that the employer will always maintain equipment. If you are the employer and you do not perform regular safety checks, you should. It's a liability issue as well as a safety issue for your employees. If you wouldn't get out on a scaffold with your employee, it's time to change your internal policy on safety protocols.

Comply With All Regulations and Identify the Tensile Strength of the Rope Used
Regulations in most cities and states require that safety equipment be used when cleaning windows. For example, scaffolding must be made of specific material and must be able to hold a minimum amount of weight. The rope used in the scaffolding must be of a minimum tensile strength, and the company must maintain a drug- and alcohol-free job site.

Review ANSI, OSHA, and the Corp of Engineers Safety and Health Requirements Manual for all equipment that is used for cleaning windows.

Always Secure Yourself
The man who fell in San Francisco wasn't secured to his scaffold -- this is inherently dangerous. Many times, the only thing protecting you from certain death is a safety line. Always use them -- always. It doesn't matter if you're late for work or the boss is on your case about something: Always use the safety line. It takes seconds to hook up, and it will save your life.

If you are the employer, you should enforce this rule and make it easy for employees to protect themselves. Perform periodic safety checks to ensure employees are complying with the law and your own internal safety procedures.

Maintain Competence and Training in Safety Protocols
Ongoing education and training will be necessary to refresh your mind on the importance of safety at the workplace. Aside from the pre-work safety checklist and a safety training certificate, you should attend regular classes on workplace safety and learn how to improve safety on job sites.

Most employees and employers know that safety is a major concern when working with high-rise structures. But not all employees and employers take the risks seriously, or they become complacent. Safety procedures and protocols can never be "too new." Usually, they become stale in the face of changing building designs and upgrades to technology and equipment.

Don't become a statistic. Always maintain competence and training in safety protocols -- this is the single greatest thing you can do to protect your life.

Michael Dreishpoon of http://www.dreishpoon.com has been practicing law in the New York metropolitan area for over 20 years. During that time, he has earned a reputation as a top-notch litigator who protects his clients' rights and freedom.

Posted by Michael Dreishpoon on Jan 24, 2015

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