Health & Safety

Window cleaner safetySimmply Clean places a high value on working safely and within the relevant legislation. To illustrate the reason for this, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) report that in 2005/06 alone, falls from heights accounted for 46 fatal accidents at work and around 3350 major injuries in the UK, and it probably won’t surprise you to hear that falling from heights remains the single biggest cause of death in the workplace, and one of the main causes of major injury.

It is for these reasons that Simmply Clean seeks to comply with the Work at Height Regulations 2005, as amended by the Work at Height (Amendment) Regulations 2007. These Regulations apply to all work at height where there is a risk of a fall liable to cause personal injury – so our decision to utilize the pure water pole system, as explained on our Window Cleaning page reflects the dangers of working with ladders, especially at greater heights.

It is true that portable ladders have traditionally been used by window cleaners – especially for cleaning windows on ground, first and second floors. Unsurprisingly, most falls by window cleaners involve the use of portable ladders. Recent figures reported to the HSE and local authorities show that between 2-7 window cleaners have been killed each year in Great Britain and about 20-30 suffer major injuries as a result of falling from ladders.

Window cleaning safetyOf course, many more window cleaners suffer less serious injuries that result in time off work – the evidence we have considered reveals that these accidents are most often down to the misuse of a ladder or error by the operative; very few are caused by faulty ladders, although this can happen and quality of ladders is an important consideration. When we mention misuse, this includes things like over-reaching, stepping off the ladder and working from window sills/ ledges with no safeguards; working from sloping roofs; and working from excessively long, unsecured ladders.

Simmply Clean does not sanction any of these abuses of Health & Safety, despite the fact that sadly, economic pressures mean that many window cleaners seem to have accepted such practices as unavoidable risks of the job. Indeed at Simmply Clean we believe that ladders should not be an automatic choice for window cleaners and alternatives should always be considered first, and of course our high reach pole system is a much safer, as well as efficient method.

Because ladders are in such regular use, there is a constant temptation to risk the odd chance but this is when most accidents occur and overconfidence and complacency are ever present dangers for window cleaners who use them. We realize of course that some ladder use is unavoidable, and as mentioned earlier although ladders themselves cause very few accidents, failure can occur and they need to be selected carefully and thoughtfully. All ladders we always use at Simmply Clean comply with relevant British or European Standard.

When it comes to preventing falls from ladders, we believe the key factor is to ensure that ladder stability is maintained at all times. We appreciate this may sound obvious, but almost all falls from ladders happen for one reason – because the ladder moves unexpectedly. So tying the ladder to a suitable point to prevent such movement is the most secure arrangement and should be done wherever the site conditions permit.

Another means of securing ladders is to tie the ladder partway down the ladder using a fixing point at a height of approximately 2 m and quick-release straps. There are also proprietary stability devices, and of course footing the ladder may help in some circumstances but footing is of little value in preventing slippage sideways at the top of the ladder, particularly when using ladders over 6m long, which must always be secured.

When selecting a ladder stability device, it is beneficial to ensure that it will increase the stability of the ladder sufficiently. When window cleaning with ladders less than 6 m long, securing the ladder will depend on a number of factors including:

  • height – the greater the height, the greater the risk;
  • lone work – self-employed cleaners cannot use footed ladders and not all locations may permit the
    use of stability devices;
  • inherent stability of the ladder – the more securely the feet and top are located, e.g. by wedging on the ground or into a corner of a building, the less the risk.

Unstable conditions include:

  • adverse weather conditions, e.g. high winds, rain, snow, ice;
  • uneven ground;
  • loose, unstable surfaces;
  • slippery surfaces, e.g. due to wet leaves or moss;
  • placing at incorrect angle;
  • sloping ground, either in line with or away from the face of the building.

Each of these factors should be carefully considered and assessed when deciding whether an unsecured ladder will be stable enough to allow a window cleaner to work safely.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 apply to all work at height where there is risk of a fall which is liable to inflict personal injury. These regulations place duties not just on window cleaners but also on building owners who contract them to work at height and to the extent they control the work, and require them to ensure the following:

  • all work at height is properly planned and organised;
  • all work at height takes account of weather conditions that could endanger health and safety;
  • those involved in work at height are trained and competent;
  • the place where work at height is done is safe;
  • equipment for work at height is appropriately inspected;
  • the risks from fragile surfaces are properly controlled;
  • the risks from falling objects are properly controlled.

So here are some important don’ts that we take very seriously at Simmply Clean, when we are cleaning your windows:

  • Don’t overreach.
  • Don’t straddle from a ladder to a nearby foothold.
  • Don’t take a grip on the building and stretch in the opposite direction.
  • Don’t place a ladder on boxes, bricks, drums or other unstable surface to gain extra height.

In summary, we believe that all window cleaners should be suitably trained and competent. They should have appropriate knowledge, and that any gaps in knowledge should be assessed and suitable training and/or supervision provided until competence is achieved. A competent person may be defined as a designated person, suitably trained or qualified by knowledge and practical experience to enable them to:

  • carry out their required duties at their level of responsibility;
  • fully understand any potential hazards related to their work;
  • detect any defects or omissions in that work,
  • recognize any implications for health and safety, and be able to specify appropriate remedial action needed, including refusal to do the work if the danger is too great.

In other words, a competent person should not only be able to identify defects but also assess the likely effect of the defect(s).

We hope this overview of Health & Safety matters demonstrates just that – the health and safety of our cleaning experts, our customers and their property matters to Simmply Clean. In an industry that sadly has more than its fair share of dangerous, risky work practices and a reputation for unreliable, fair-weather operatives we think you will find Simmply Clean’s approach to cleaning your windows or any other of our other cleaning services to be a refreshing change.

Call 07838 745902 for a free estimate or go to the estimates page.