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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

As soon as the first skyscraper went up, there were window washers. It's a profession that has a lot of inherent danger in it. Improvised and unsafe equipment or practices were often commonplace. Even when newer, safer equipment was available, it wasn't able to be used because it wasn't authorized for such work. 

Building owners have often left it up to the individual contractors to counter the dangers of window washing and other work at suspended heights. This was because up until recently there were no real hard, fast rules specific to window washing. This has changed. The International Window Cleaners Association (IWCA) created a standard called IWCA I-14.1-2001. This standard was created over the course of almost five years and involved individuals from every aspect of the industry.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved IWCA I-14.1-2001 in October of 2001. While the ANSI/IWCA I-14.1-2001 Standard hasn't been officially adopted by OSHA, this has not stopped OSHA from issuing serious citations under the general duty clause. These new standards not only make window washing safer, but also say specifically what building owners, property professionals, and window washing contractors are responsible for.

  • The building owner or property professional must provide written documentation from a professional structural engineer that the roof anchors being used are certified to withstand the expected loads necessary for any work being done.
  • Any permanent equipment being used for window cleaning must be inspected and maintained by the property professional or operating agent. Documentation of this maintenance and inspection must be provided to the window cleaning contractor.
  • Manufacturer instructions on all equipment being used that includes the load ratings, limitations, and intended use must be supplied to the window cleaning contractor.
  • If the window cleaning contractor uses their own equipment and attaches it to any part of the building, it must be inspected to ensure that the anchor point will hold the expected load. It is often necessary that this be done by a structural engineer.

As a building owner, you can no longer just assume that the window washer contractors are responsible for the safety of their workers. As the building owner, you now have specific responsibilities. 

The ANSI/IWCA I-14.1-2001 Standard also requires that window washers and other workers doing any suspended work provide written assurances to the building owner or property professional that all work they perform will comply with all applicable local, state, and federal laws. They also must provide documentation proving all workers have had the appropriate training and are certified to use all equipment being used for their work.

This standard makes a dangerous job safer, but it also puts building owners on notice that they need to make sure the workers on their buildings have the proper training and equipment in order to avoid liability.