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Cleaning At Heights: A Fast-Growing Profession But Dangerous

The maintenance of a building involves several jobs. While low-rise buildings require cleaning without extreme risk, multi-story buildings require cleaning at heights, such as window washing. The equipment used for this job and its context make it quite dangerous, although it is growing rapidly. This article discusses this observation.

The risks of cleaning at height

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Cleaning at heights has its risks, even when it comes to low-level work. These activities involve, most of the time, washing windows at duplexes or relatively high buildings.

In reality, stepladders and other aids to elevation do not guarantee the absolute safety and can consistently put workers at risk. Logically, the greater the height, the greater the severity of possible accidents.

According to statistics, falls from height account for 10% of all accidents in cleaning activities. The most concerning material factors are stepladders and ladders, roofs, and furniture elements (tables, chairs, etc.).

The risks associated with cleaning at height can be prevented much more effectively when prevention is integrated into the construction of buildings. For this reason, the regulatory texts addressed to building owners encourage this. They recommend that workplaces and their equipment should be designed and built in such a way that glazed surfaces on the roof or above can be cleaned in complete safety.

For all types of cleaning work, it is recommended to call upon a specialists. The cleaners of this company have the necessary expertise and experience to guarantee a successful and risk-free result.

What precautions should be taken to limit the risks?

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The workers who carry out the cleaning at height and those who are present at the level of the building and in its surroundings must thus choose, whenever possible, collective protection solutions (mobile bridges, fixed platforms, fixed means of access).

In addition, for all buildings, a DIUO (dossier d’intervention ultérieure sur l’ouvrage) must be drawn up. This document can be made available to the cleaning company for consultation.

At the level of the cleaning companies, there are basic principles that prevent the workers from being exposed to risks. Indeed, these companies must :

    • Advocate level work before choosing to work with elevating equipment
    • Give priority to materials that offer the possibility of implementing collective protections: flying scaffolds, personnel elevators, rolling scaffolds, and work platforms.
    • Use ladders only when it is technically impossible to ensure the implementation of the above-mentioned devices for work of a limited duration. This must be done on the condition that the means of individual defense are implemented (presence of two employees at the time of the intervention, anchoring point with the wearing of a harness, etc.).

The employees involved in work at height must be recognized as capable of dealing with this type of work. They must also receive safety training in the use of various equipment. Most of this equipment is subject to inspection (during commissioning and periodically).

Precautions to be taken to reduce the risks of cleaning at height

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The precautions to be taken to reduce the risks associated with cleaning a surface at height must be put in place each time a professional cleaning visits, depending on the location, the surface to be cleaned, the establishment, and its characteristics.

    • For the cleaning of high glass surfaces, it is necessary to use adapted equipment such as telescopic poles, personnel elevators (gondolas), or individual rolling platforms. All this equipment must also be checked regularly to ensure that it is in good condition and stable.
    • For cleaning at heights where there is a risk of falling, it may also be necessary to provide workers with non-slip protective footwear and protective body shells in case of particular danger.
    • For the highest heights (more than three meters), the worker in charge of the cleaning must also wear an anti-fall safety harness and be accompanied by another person in case of problems. Two people will be required to perform the cleaning task from a height of more than three meters.
    • For any cleaning at the height that presents risks, a professional cleaning company must ensure that its employees are medically and practically fit to perform these tasks.

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