Specialist access equipment

For windows that are more difficult to reach the use of specialist access equipment will be necessary. Examples include rope access, travelling ladders and gantries on the premises exterior or suspended access equipment (SAE) e.g cradles and Building Maintenance Units.

Often a number of organisations will be involved in these tasks. Everyone in the risk management chain must ensure their collective activities are co-ordinated and controlled, minimising risks to their employees and others who may be affected by their activities.

Depending upon your role, there are actions which you must take:

Building owner or person in control of the building

In many cases the equipment will be owned and maintained by the building owner. The duty holder for/person in control of the building must ensure that window cleaning contractors are provided with:

  • site specific instruction on accessing the equipment
  • access to Operating and Maintenance Instructions for the equipment
  • copies of the relevant certification (ie LOLER Certificate, plus Inspection, Maintenance and Testing Records for the equipment confirming that it is suitable for use) 
  • Emergency procedures and rescue plan

It is common practice for building owners/managers to complement the provision of information to contracting companies with site specific induction training for window cleaning operatives working on their site.

Window Cleaning Contractors

Contractors must ensure that their employees and any sub-contractors;

  • Are fully trained and competent to use the equipment on site
  • Have received site specific instruction on accessing the equipment safely
  • Request LOLER thorough examination reports, as well as maintenance/inspection/testing records before work is carried out
  • Know how to obtain the equipment Operating and Maintenance Instruction on site
  • Have read, and confirmed they have understood, the emergency procedures
  • Are aware of their individual responsibilities, in particular to follow agreed safe system of work procedures
  • Are aware of systems in place to record operative attendance on site

Window Cleaning Operatives

You have a duty to manage your own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by your actions.

You must:

  • Attend any site specific training provided by the building owner/manager
  • Read, and question any misunderstanding, all site specific and equipment instructions provided by your employer or the building owner
  • Adhere to agreed safe system of work practices.
  • Use all safety equipment as instructed, including that designed to prevent your tools falling to the ground
  • Report any matters which may affect safety eg. damage to equipment or incidents whilst working

Travelling ladders and gantries

Travelling ladders and gantries on a building with glass sides and roof

These are normally found running across large areas of glazed roofing and may be powered or moved manually by the operators. Owners of this type of equipment must ensure that it is properly installed, inspected, maintained and safe to use.

Users must wear a full-body harness with an energy absorbing or an inertia reel lanyard to current BS EN standards. All tools and equipment should be secured to the structure or operator eg by suitable lanyard.

Suspended/Facade Access Equipment (SAE) – Cradles etc.

Suspended Cradles on glass fronted building

This is a specialised window cleaning task and you must ensure that only competent and properly trained and instructed operators use this equipment. Users must ensure:

  • The manufacturers safe working load is NEVER exceeded by the weight of people and equipment
  • The equipment is not used in weather conditions outside the manufacturers 'safe' quoted ranges
  • They use suitable fall prevention/fall arrest equipment e.g. a full body harness with energy absorbing lanyards. Such equipment should conform to relevant standards.
  • All tools and equipment taken into the cradle are secured e.g. by suitable lanyard.

Further information is available from Specialist Access Engineering and Maintenance Association (SAEMA).

Rope access

Person suspended by rope and harness cleaning side of glass on building

The advantage of using rope access methods lies mainly in the speed with which workers can get to or from difficult locations and then carry out their work, often with minimal impact on other operations.

The Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA International) has in place a continuously evolving regime with procedures that members are required to follow, which are monitored for compliance to ensure a safe system of work is established and maintained.

Further information is available from IRATA International.

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Updated: 2023-08-07