Working at height whilst window cleaning

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSW Act) requires employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees and to ensure that those affected by their activities are not exposed to risk. Health and safety law also applies to self-employed window cleaners if their work exposes others to risk.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 require employers and those in control of any work at height activity to ensure that the work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people. This includes using the right type of equipment for working at height. When planning and organising window cleaning you must avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so, for example by using telescopic water fed poles or cleaning windows from the inside.

Best practice guidance ‘Window Cleaning with Water Fed Poles – How to do it and look after your body ‘ was produced jointly by HSE and industry is available from the Federation of Window Cleaners website (PDF)

Where window cleaning at height cannot be avoided, you must first consider using an existing place of work that is already safe for example, cleaning from inside windows or from a balcony. If you cannot find an existing safe place, to work from, you must provide suitable access equipment. Where the risk of falling is not eliminated by either of these means, you must take additional measures to minimise the distance and consequences of any fall by using the right type of fall arrest equipment.

It is important to discuss all window cleaning activities with the client as they will know their business well. Working together to develop an agreed co-ordinated approach is essential for reducing the risks e.g. your client will be aware if window/building design allows for safe cleaning of windows from the inside effectively eliminating the risk of falling.

All those working at height must have the right skills, knowledge and experience. The requirements for specific competences will depend on the work being done, e.g. a window cleaner involved in abseiling will require different skills, knowledge and experience from someone only involved in cleaning ground floor windows.

If working at height is unavoidable, you must plan and organise the task in advance. You will need to consider the following areas:

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