Window cleaning, or window washing, is the cleaning of architectural glass used for structural, lighting, or decorative purposes.
Commercial work is contracted variously from in-person transactions for cash or barter, to formal tender processes. Regulations, licensing, technique, equipment and compensation vary nationally and regionally.
- 1 Tools
- 2 Access
- 3 Hazards of the trade
- 4 Ecology and water shortages
- 5 Technological progress and decline in labor requirements
- 6 Images
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Chamois & Scrim (UK)
Water & Squeegee
Generally, chemicals are added to water, and a device such as a brush or cloth-covered handle is dipped into the resulting solution and used to scrub glass. A squeegee is then used to sluice dirt and water mixture from glass.
Any of a variety of types of telescopic poles, fitted at the upper end with a brush and water jets, fed either from vehicle-borne tanks of deionised water or by on-site production of deionised water using a domestic or commercial water outlet.With the addtion of Wagtail cleaning tools -new Jetstream in 2013 waterfed pole systems now employ not only brushes but swiveling microfiber pads with jet streams above the pads to clean windows, www.wagtail.com.au
Where glass is found are window cleaners, and methods of access and equipment related to both access and cleaning vary nationally and regionally.
Ladders ranging in size from a single step to the extent (and beyond) of local regulations are used to access windows for cleaning purposes.
Not to be confused with suspended scaffolding, these are temporary work platforms typically erected from a lower level to gain access at height.
Aerial Work Platforms
Machines variously configured and powered, designed to deliver workers to otherwise inaccessible areas.
Not to be confused with supported scaffolding. Devices designed for ascent and/or descent via rope (wire or fiber [synthetic or natural]) by mechanical or manual means.
- Boatswain's Chair: A boatswain's chair (contr. bosun's chair) is a single-person seat designed for controlled descent of rope. Often referred to as "rope decent systems" (RDS), these are typically anchored to a roof structure, counterweight configuration, or connecting points designed for the purpose. Note: These are always temporarily installed for the purpose of access. However, their anchor points can be either temporary or permanent.
- Scaffold: Also called a swing stage, an access platform for one or more workers with manual or motor driven devices for raising and lowering via rope. Scaffolds may be fitted to high rise buildings or skyscrapers, or assembled from components to suit architecture and nature of work being performed. Note: These can be either temporary or permanent. Both having their own unique governing codes and regulations. Permanent suspended scaffolds are often known as building maintenance units (BMU) and their platforms are often known as gondolas.
Hazards of the trade
Risks include slipping on water or soap, and falling from heights. Unlike in Scotland, there is no government licensing in the United States, England or Wales - this means anyone can claim to be a window cleaner. Window cleaning is considered the most dangerous job in the UK. Several window cleaners die each year, and many are injured.
Many window cleaning businesses are claiming that laws are about to come into force due to European Directive 2001/45/EC that will make ladders illegal for window cleaners.. However, the government denies this stipulation, as ladder use for window cleaning is "low risk and short duration":
To clarify the situation HSE is not attempting to ban ladders or stepladders, but ladders should not be the automatic first choice of access. They should only be used after a suitable assessment of the alternatives and the prevailing site conditions. The selection process for access equipment is coming under increasing scrutiny at HSE inspections. This guidance clarifies that for short duration work like window cleaning, provided a number of well-recognised precautions are taken, ladders will remain a common tool for many jobs.
The Working At Height Regulations came into force in 2005 and does not ban ladders but merely restricts their use to safe methods, i.e. foot it by person or with a ladderstopper:
4.2.2. The feet of portable ladders must be prevented from slipping during use by securing the stiles at or near their upper or lower ends, by any anti-slip device or by any other arrangement of equivalent effectiveness. Ladders used for access must be long enough to protrude sufficiently beyond the access platform, unless other measures have been taken to ensure a firm handhold. Interlocking ladders and extension ladders must be used so that the different sections are prevented from moving relative to one another. Mobile ladders must be prevented from moving before they are stepped on.
The HSE favours the use of scaffold towers, i.e. temporary workstations, for window cleaning but acknowledges this is rather awkward:
"For some jobs, a mobile elevating work platform will be the best option. However, for many jobs, especially on domestic and small commercial buildings, risk assessment will demonstrate that because of the short duration of the work and features on the building that cannot be altered, ladders are the only realistic option."
Ecology and water shortages
Another issue is how "green" window cleaning companies are seen to be. During the spring of 2006 Defra considered banning the non-essential use of water and extending their already tight restrictions to prevent the use of water-fed safer which reach up to 60 ft. Window cleaners could return to the bucket-and-mop method, because Health and Safety Working at Heights allows such for temporary access,. Many window cleaners and window cleaning companies argue that their usage of water is minimal in comparison with water usages of large industry and energy companies, and that their water usage accounts for a small percentage of overall water consumption in developed countries. 
Technological progress and decline in labor requirements
A lot of progress has been made in the area of minimizing the need for labor in this industry by use of technology. The availability of technology such as the Pressure washer has made it more efficient. And more recently in High tech societies the use of fully automated robotic window cleaners is starting to become common.
Window cleaning with a water-fed pole in Bath, England
A large, new, glass façade building with dirty windows due to particles of the fresh sealant between the windows running - Wells Fargo Center (Miami)
Using an extension pole in London
- Aerial work platform
- "How a Skyscraper Windo Washer Faces Death". Modern Mechanix. September 1934. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
- MSN Money article.
- "Health and Safety Executive issues new guidance for window ...". HSE.gov.uk. 2003-10-16. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
- "Ladders are not banned - but they should be used sensibly". HSE.gov.uk. 2005-09-12. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
- The Work at Height Regulations 2005, OPSI.gov.uk, 2005-03-29, ISBN 0-11-072563-8, retrieved 2010-01-19
- "The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR)". HSE.gov.uk. 2005-03-17. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
- "Safety in window cleaning using portable ladders - HSE Information Sheet MISC613". HSE.gov.uk. 0?-09-03. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
- "Window cleaners' job threat". theargus.co.uk. 2006-03-29. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
- Window Cleaners on The Empire State Building - 1938 British Pathe newsreel
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