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It can be tough at the top

07 March 2013

Gary Johns, head of the windows and industrial division at In Depth Managed Services, looks at best practice when cleaning at height

Gary Johns, head of the windows and industrial division at In Depth Managed Services, looks at best practice when cleaning at height

Cleaning and maintaining the windows and façades of high-rise offices, listed buildings, shopping centres or sports stadiums is a job for a working at height specialist with all the right gear and skills. Thanks to tighter regulations, advanced techniques and hightech equipment, working at height has become safer and more professional.

Anyone working at height must, by law, undergo training. The Health and Safety Executive offers a wealth of information and courses - see www.hse.gov.uk/falls/publications.htm. Courses are also available from private trainers.

Any responsible company will invest in training, in people and in technology to provide a first-class long-term service, and will tailor services to suit the client.

Both managers and employees must share the responsibility of ensuring best practice for working at height.

Also consider factors like the terrain, overhead lines and workers' medical history. Without the right training, muscular or skeletal disorders can develop from having poor techniques.

According to ROSPA figures, during 2008-2009 over 4,000 employees were seriously injured falling from height, so taking the regulations seriously is vital.

Making advances As well as offering the advantage of avoiding ladders, modern technology in some cases can also provide financial savings and environmental benefits.

The Reach and Wash water-fed pole system used by In Depth has myriad benefits and, in our opinion, has vastly improved windowcleaning techniques.

Normally, the minerals in water leave smears, which should be removed with a squeegee. But with pole systems, the water is purified using a filtration system, leaving no marks. Pure water also absorbs dirt, improving cleaning. In Depth has found that this halves the chemicals used in the normal process of cleaning windows, and, using water-fed pole systems can save time and money.

Water-fed pole systems are great for cleaning windows at height and In Depth's teams are able to clean windows safely from the ground to heights of up to 60ft. Above this height, In Depth utilises varying forms of equipment to access the more difficult-to-reach locations, such as abseiling and powered access.

To prevent falls from mobile elevated work platforms, keep the area cordoned off with clear signage and keep well away from traffic.

Ensure operators are trained and are familiar with the controls of the equipment. If possible, put up guardrails. Nets and airbags provide protection only after a fall, so don't rely on them.

City sparkle Earlier this year, In Depth secured a contract with Liverpool City Council to keep two key historic Liverpool buildings sparkling clean for the thousands of visitors they draw each year.

St George's Hall and the Town Hall are icons of the city, and need to look their best to uphold Liverpool city centre's reputation as a fine heritage attraction. Over the coming years, In Depth will provide a number of services to the sites to keep the buildings looking in a pristine condition.

The exterior of each building takes nearly a full day to complete, with three men working on St George's Hall and two on the Town Hall.

A water-fed pole system is used to clean the Town Hall, but St George's Hall, one of the finest neo-classical buildings in the world and 169ft long and 74ft wide, requires a powered access platform.

Extra special care will be taken over cleaning the windows of the Town Hall as it has two stained-glass domes.

Becoming approved by - or a member of - the following will enhance a company's professional reputation: Safecontractor The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme Federation of Window Cleaners The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

In Depth is approved by or a corporate member of all of the above.

For more information about working at height, contact In Depth Managed Services on the number in the blue box.