A step up in safety

21 March 2016

British Cleaning Council (BCC) member, Federation of Window Cleaners, was awarded a BCC grant in 2013 to get their SAM (Safety Accredited Member) safety scheme off the ground. BCC media chief Lee Baker takes a look how at how it’s going

Improving safety procedures in the workplace is one of the most important issues an organisation such as the British Cleaning Council can become involved in. That is why the Council was delighted to back the Federation of Window Cleaners (FoWC) when they needed funding for a new safety scheme just over two years ago. 

The FoWC wanted to develop a new safety standard aimed solely at window cleaners. The SAM Scheme (Safety Accredited Member) is a pre-qualification scheme that allows local authorities and other organisations to identify that window cleaners have the minimum standard required under the scheme. It is already being recognised by local authorities and other entities as a necessity for window cleaners, with some now even requiring it before procuring services.

The beauty of SAM is that it’s a safety solution produced by window cleaners, for window cleaners. The Federation felt that, whilst more general safety procurement schemes for trades people such as CHAS provide a useful service, those schemes don’t cover window cleaning thoroughly enough.

FoWC general secretary Beryl Murray said: “ Unlike some procurement schemes, SAM requires evidence of approved health and safety training in all of the window cleaning disciplines being used by the company ie. Use of waterfed poles, ladders, abseiling, MEWPs risk assessment etc.”

SAM can give prospective clients extra peace of mind, as they can see at a glance that the window cleaner has had real time practical training, which addresses aspects of the job no other safety scheme covers.

A risky business

No industry is ever 100 per cent safe, and window cleaning does come with its own very unique set of safety issues. In some ways the hazards that face window cleaners are similar to what other cleaning operatives may face, but at the same time, the job brings many other safety challenges that are not found anywhere else.

Before even getting onto a site, a window cleaner has to make sure that the ladder is safe and well maintained. The rungs of the ladder have to be secure and not wet, and, perhaps, most important of all, they have to make sure the ladder is secured and not placed against an unstable object before climbing.

Much of this may seem like basic common sense, but without specialised training, and the reinforcement of the safety message, these simple basics can easily be overlooked, and that is how accidents happen.

In addition to safety, The FoWC emphasise in their training the importance of the general health and fitness of the window cleaner. It’s very demanding work, and so a window cleaner has to be physically fit, and be aware of issues like repetitive strain injury, taking adequate breaks, and not working when tired. SAM training will also focus the window cleaners mind on the client’s needs, and make them more aware of the building they’re working in.

Although window cleaners tend to work alone, it’s important to remind them they don’t work in isolation, and when they’re on site, their presence can carry extra health and safety issues for others. They are reminded in the training to be mindful of their surroundings, of not leaving discarded buckets, or spills and wet patches on the floor, of not blocking pathways or escape routes with their ladders, and to even be friendly and considerate to people they come across during their window round.

The FoWC has designed a scheme which can show facilities managers that very high safety standards have been met, and that the person who has successfully completed SAM, will be a safer option to have on site. For the window cleaner, taking SAM improves their chances of getting work, as now even more prospective employers are insisting on it.