Keeping a commercial or residential building clean and presentable is just one bit of essential maintenance work that every building manager or contractor should undertake. Since windows often act as a building’s exterior face – as well as a fundamental part of its aesthetic in many modern architectural designs – their upkeep is crucial to how the building is perceived from both inside and out. Indeed, as rope access specialists, we think that the residents of a building should be able to enjoy their beautiful views free of scuffs and marks.
However, as anybody who has taken a stroll through central London will have noticed, not all windows look like a walk in the park to clean. Some are too high up on a building to be reached via ladder or cherry picker, and some are too awkward and difficult to reach via suspension platforms or access cradles. In these cases, the most appropriate means of access is that which serves the trickiest of spots on the tallest of buildings without any problems… you guessed it, rope access! If you have questions about this service, we’re going to answer them in this post.
How does it work?
Rope access window cleaning is a fairly simple procedure that involves a small amount of setting up, a minimal amount of equipment, but a very high standard of safety. All work is carried out by trained professionals who are not only great with heights (rope access is no career for the acrophobic), but also experienced in their trade. As such, they can get the job done quickly and effectively without causing disruption or risking harm to anyone.
Technicians securely anchor to the roof of a building before proceeding down its side (bucket in tow) and cleaning each window they pass by. Depending on the job, technicians rarely clean all of a building’s windows on their own – this would probably take far too long – so they often work in teams that clean entire floors at the same time, descending together in a neat row.
On top of a very compact inventory of rope access gear (see a full list of this equipment here and here), window cleaning at height involves exactly the tools you’d expect: a trusty window wiper paired with some good old soap and water. Since technicians are required to clean for extended periods while dangling from a system of ropes, they must use work seats to prevent any straining or chafing that could be caused by the harness.
Many outside the industry worry about the seemingly hazardous nature of rope access work. Indeed, even we can’t deny that dangling from the top of a skyscraper looks quite precarious. However, just like any job performed using rope access, window cleaning at height requires great attention to detail when it comes to safety. This includes taking measures such as:
- Establishing that all of the workers’ equipment is in good working order. According to IRATA, “a visual, tactile and function check should be carried out before each use.”
- Making sure that tools are secured to workers’ harnesses with lanyards to prevent them from falling and causing harm to people below.
- Ensuring that some form of fall protection or fall arrest is in place at all times, such as a horizontal lifeline or a shock-absorbing lanyard.
- Guaranteeing that each technician holds an IRATA qualification of some degree and that each team is managed by a fully-trained level 3 supervisor.
- Checking that both safety precautions are met and potential hazards are eliminated.
If you’re still unsure about just how safe rope access work really is, you might want to read our previous blog post on the subject. (Spoiler: it’s actually one of the safest and most responsible ways of working at height possible!)
Why rope access?
As well as being a safe and low-risk procedure, rope access also enjoys the benefit of enabling technicians to clean windows that are simply unreachable when using other means of access. While ladders, suspended platforms, aerial work platforms and scaffolding cannot get to those more hard to reach spots (i.e. large overhangs, the interior of atriums, non-vertical windows), technicians on the ropes experience a great deal of versatility with very few limitations. Just imagine the logistical and financial nightmare of cleaning every window on a 60-floor building using only scaffolding, and compare that to the speed and efficiency of a rope access team working from the top down.
In addition, without the need to take up any space at ground level and cause disruption to those working within the building, rope access window cleaners can get set up and start working in no time at all. This lack of restrictions, minimal use of equipment, short set-up time, and high standard of safety makes rope access an efficient and dynamic solution to even the most complex cleaning jobs. A lot of the time, it’s a no-brainer!
The main takeaway here is that some jobs are best served by more versatile and less disruptive means of access. If your building needs its windows cleaning and you’re worried about the cost and time implications of doing so, rope access might just be your saving grace! If you’re curious, don’t hesitate to give us a quick call and we’d be happy to help.