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If you are a professional window washing company, or a commercial customer getting your windows cleaned, job safety has to be of paramount importance. This is especially true if you have a multi-story building. Window washing at height can be inherently dangerous if proper precautions and safety protocols are not followed.

Low-rise buildings of three floors or less will require ladders for access to the upper floors. When you have a mid-rise building between four and six floors, or a high-rise structure, you will need more sophisticated systems to get the cleaning job done. OSHA window cleaning regulations spell out the safety standards and protocols, and the anchors and equipment that will need to be used.

Systems Used to Clean Mid-Rise and High-Rise Windows

When professional window cleaners have to tackle windows in a building beyond the reach of a ladder, they will use a rope descent system. OSHA’s new regulations apply to both window washing anchors and the rope descent systems that are to be used.

Suspension systems allow workers to be able to descend in a controlled manner, and stop at any time as needed during the process of descent. Typically, the rope descent system (RDS) will consist of a support rope, roof anchor, a descent device, shackle(s) or carabiner(s) and a seatboard or chair.

Is Window Cleaner Regulated by OSHA?

There are important regulations, applicable to window cleaning primarily in mid-rise and high-rise buildings, that both owners and employers need to be aware of. In addition to very specific written certifications for anchor points that must be provided by the building owner, there are also employer related safety regulations as well.

A window cleaning employer must be sure that all workers using an RDS are fully trained in accordance with OSHA standards. The RDS components must support a minimum load level of 5,000 pounds, and the seat board must support 300 pounds. Each worker using an RDS must have a separate fall arrest system that is attached to a separate anchor. Additionally, all window washing equipment must be secured by lanyard to prevent anyone from being struck by falling equipment below.

What Are Rules for Window Cleaners?

The owners of a business are now responsible for a number of safety actions and certifications related to window cleaning. The anchorages that secure employees and their descent systems are addressed in the OSHA rules and regulations, as are the building owner’s specific responsibilities.

The employing window washing company has to make sure that none of their workers use an anchorage before the company receives written certification information from the building owner. In addition, OSHA also notes that Rope Descent Systems should not be used higher than 300 feet above the ground. There is an exception for Industrial Rope Access Systems (IRAS), which require far more extensive training and certification. IRAS is capable of ascending, descending and moving horizontally.

OSHA Window Washing Anchors

The new OSHA regulations state that prior to window washing employers using a RDS on the building, the owner of the building has to positively state that the anchors are in proper condition. In addition, they must base this statement of information from the annual inspection.

In their written confirmation providing OSHA window cleaning certification for anchorages, they have to attest that they have identified, maintained, tested and certified the anchor points as fully capable of handling 5,000 pounds in any direction. Each anchorage must be fully certified, at least once every ten years.

Specific Requirements for Anchor Point Inspection

OSHA regulations state that the anchor points must be inspected by a Qualified Person. Typically, qualified persons would have a recognized degree, professional standing or certification in engineering or a similar area. They could also be someone who has the documented experience, training or knowledge to do this testing.

To certify the anchor points, they must use a scientifically valid test to make sure the anchor can support a minimum of 5,000 pounds in any direction per each attached worker. These anchorages would be inspected on an annual basis by the qualified person. Most of the time a pull test at 2,5000 pounds is conducted.

What Are the OSHA Housekeeping Rules?

In order to make sure the window cleaning job is done safely, there must be constant attention to housekeeping and maintenance on the part of the window washing company. The employer is responsible for on-going maintenance of all equipment and devices used on the job.

There may also be specific prohibitions that the employer has to be aware of, and comply with. In general, ladders that have hooks that are attached and are designed to be hung over a parapet are prohibited. As regards equipment, length on extension tools may be limited to 6 feet. Ropes that are used in window cleaning operations have to be inspected before each use, and discarded if found to be unsafe.

What PPE Is Required for Window Cleaning?

Workers on window cleaning projects will make use of a variety of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Beyond the requirements for certification of anchor systems, and regulations related to Rope Descent Systems, employees also utilize PPE to further protect them and enhance their safety.

Employees who are cleaning the windows will need to use gloves and proper eye protection. Helmets are required, and help protect the worker in the event of a fall. This head gear also keeps the window washer safe in the event an object falls on them from above. If for some reason the job requires the use of stronger chemicals, then eye protection and gloves may need to be upgraded. In rare instance, respirators could also be required.

The new OSHA regulations are designed to help reduce workplace injuries and deaths related to falls. Both building owners and employers have to understand their specific responsibilities, and assure that they are following the OSHA rules. Owners of buildings have to make sure they certify the integrity of the building and anchor points, while employers have to provide safe equipment and extensive training. If you are ready to have your commercial windows cleaned by a company that makes safety a top priority, call us today at (773) 227-4522 or email us at

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