Published on: August 7, 2013
Ensuring that high-rise buildings look their best is the responsibility of the building manager. Window washers use equipment that moves up and down the sides of the building and is secured by lines attached to a rooftop anchorage structure. The safety of the window cleaning workers literally depends upon these connections and the stability of the anchorage point at the top of the building. The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, more commonly known as OSHA, has established standards for window washing equipment and anchorages. While window washing contractors are typically responsible for the equipment they supply for their workers, the full responsibility for maintaining secure rooftop anchorages falls upon building owners and managers. Understanding this responsibility can help owners and managers to protect the safety of workers on their property and avoid costly liability lawsuits.
Anchorage Requirements for Building Owners
The rooftop anchorages to be used for window washing must be a secure and integrated part of the structure and must be constructed to bear at least four times the maximum load weights allowable for window washing equipment. These anchorages are designed to bear the weight of boatswain’s chairs, single and two-point suspension scaffolds. Separate anchorages are required for the safety lines that provide backup for window washers. According to American National Standard Institute (ANSI) recommendations, these anchorages must support a minimum of 8,400 pounds. While OSHA requirements are not quite so stringent, it is clear that building owners must provide adequate anchorage points for window washers and their equipment to avoid violating federal regulations and to ensure the safety of these valuable workers.
Maintaining Rooftop Anchorage Points
Building managers are responsible for ongoing testing and certification of rooftop anchorages for window washers. Generally, thesewindow washing equipment inspection tasks are performed by a professional firm that specializes in fall protection systems. These experts will examine and test the sockets, tiebacks, davits and anchorage platforms to ensure that they are function properly and that they provide adequate support for window washing equipment and the workers who manage these high-rise tasks. Fall protection professionals can also help property owners set up a building maintenance system that includes regular inspections and training for this important safety equipment. Ensuring that building managers and in-house staff who perform window washing tasks are well-versed in the proper use of this equipment can protect workers from harm and companies from financial liability.
A Comprehensive Approach to Building Safety
In some cases, window washing tasks may be assigned to in-house personnel rather than performed by independent window washing companies. This puts the full responsibility for proper fall protection equipment and safety procedures on the building owners. Ensuring a safe working environment for these staff members is of paramount importance and requires a wide range of added equipment in addition to secure anchorage points and lifelines for high-rise workers. Scaffolds and boatswain’s chairs must be constructed to meet OSHA standards for safety; additionally, ongoing maintenance and equipment checks must be performed to ensure that this equipment remains in proper working order. Tieback anchors, sockets and davits are essential elements of modern window washing equipment and represent stress points that can potentially fail if not properly inspected and maintained.
Scaffold collapses and falls are constant risks in the window washing business. While fatal accidents are fortunately rare, maintaining anchorages and equipment properly can help companies avoid the financial liability that can result from cases of minor injury to these valued workers. Enlisting the help of a firm that specializes in analyzing risks and providing fall protection equipment for workers can help property managers provide the safest possible working environment for window washers from outside companies or for members of their own building maintenance staff.