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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

A question that comes up frequently: “Why can’t I just use the ________ anchor for window washing?”

The answer to that question has a deep basis in the different codes and design requirements for window washing activities; it is not necessarily because anything is actually wrong with an anchor that is “not rated for window washing.” This article outlines those codes and design distinctions.

It is fairly common knowledge that most fall arrest anchors must be rated to withstand a minimum 5,000 lbs. load. There are even certain cases where it is permissible to be engineered to withstand 3,600 lbs. in lieu of 5,000 lbs. But most importantly, this is the minimum required ultimate load—the anchor must not show any signs of fracture or failure at this load.

It will be difficult to find a fall protection anchor out there which will not show any signs of deformation at this load. But, if we look at standards such as OSHA 1926.502(d)(19), we learn why some deformation may be acceptable. OSHA indicates that anchors that experience fall arrest loads must be flagged out of service until deemed fit for use by a Competent Person – no matter what. The Competent Person can then determine whether the anchor’s structural integrity was weakened by the applied load.

In other words, the only design requirement for a fall protection anchor is that it will not fail under a dynamic (instantaneous) load from a fall. But anchors for “window cleaning” or any type of “suspension” must be capable of resisting a static (continuous) load.

Window washing systems, after all, are subjected to regular continuous loads and must be able to endure these repeatedly without being weakened. Their requirements for withstanding proof load testing, as well as some differences in engineering documentation and inspection requirements are much stricter.

Recently Completed Window Washing Systems from ESGRecently Completed Window Washing Systems from ESG

Wherever you go within the OSHA and ANSI standards, it is made clear that “fall protection” and “window washing” or “suspension” systems are completely independent, and follow different design criteria from one another. For example, ANSI Z359, the consensus national fall protection standard for general industry personnel, states that “The fall arrest anchorage requirements for individuals working from suspended equipment shall be as specified in ANSI/IWCA I-14.1 and ASME A120.1.” (ANSI Z359.6-2009 (4.6.3)).

For more information outlining the many differences in regulatory requirements, click here to download our Window Washing vs. Fall Protection Anchorages Fact Sheet.

We find that ANSI/IWCA I-14.1-2001 is that standard that must be referenced for the design requirements of anchor points that are used for suspended maintenance of any kind. It is therefore critical to make sure anchors for these applications are IWCA-compliant as opposed to simply OSHA-compliant or even ANSI-compliant.

All told, if there is any doubt as to what the anchors will be used for or what standards need to be referenced, it is critical to take a look into the standards (such as IWCA) to confirm whether they apply to the anchors in question. And if any doubt still exists, always reach out to the product manufacturer to confirm what fall protection or suspension applications in which the anchors are permitted to be used.

If you are in need of window washing anchors, we highly recommend our S-Series anchor points, which are always engineered specifically for window washing and suspended maintenance applications per IWCA.

Should you have further questions on window washing anchors or custom fall protection systems in general, please contact myself, Charlie Garcia, at 1-800-466-6385 ext. 105.

Note: The State of California has unique requirements for fall protection as well as window washing anchors on all buildings 36 feet or more in height, click here for additional information on those unique requirements.

Window Washing Anchors with Charlie Garcia