Houston is a city with multiple diverse skylines, including Downtown, The Uptown Galleria area, the Texas Medical Center, the Energy Corridor, and more. Many of the skyscrapers in these city centers have enormous glass windows that shine brightly throughout the day. Regular window cleaning is an important part of building maintenance. Who keeps these windows clean and streak-free, providing mile-long views of the city? Houston’s professional high-rise window washers. High-rise window washers keep windows clean and clear for workers, residents, and visitors to see for miles across the city; however, window washing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Working as a window washer means risking your life on a daily basis and requires adherence to strict safety measures to prevent deadly accidents from occurring.
Cleaning high-rise windows is a profession that demands mobility, bravery, and proper safety protocols. While someone walking or driving by a building being cleaned by a window washer may not think the workers are at any real risk, high-rise window cleaning accidents do happen and can be devastating to these workers and even to the pedestrians below. In September of 2020, the Houston Fire Department sent rescue teams up a building in downtown Houston to save two window washers who were stranded on an unstable platform hundreds of feet in the air. The two workers were brought down to safety unharmed, but that is not always the case in a window-washing accident.
Window Washing Risks
Different buildings have different ways of having their windows cleaned. Some high-rise buildings have rigging on the roof to which window washers can attach a scaffold with ropes. That scaffold is then lowered down from the roof to give the window washers access to the windows that need cleaning. Window washers on a scaffold should always be provided with and use a safety harness, ropes, and belts and all appropriate personal protective equipment.
The greatest risk a window washer faces is falling from a great height. This could be due to a faulty piece of equipment, another worker’s negligence, or even the weather. Window washers often work hundreds of feet in the air, but a fall from even just 50 or 60 feet above the ground is almost always fatal. This is why those who employ professional window washers must ensure all climbing equipment is sound and all safety gear is in good working condition. All cables, harnesses, and scaffolding should be routinely inspected to make sure they are properly operating and are secured. Appropriately installed and maintained safety equipment can be the difference between a minor injury and death if an accident does occur.
Even when all safety equipment works properly, there are many other risks that could cause a serious fall. Window washers are at the mercy of the weather, which can have serious impacts on their work. At higher elevations, wind can be very strong, including between tall buildings where wind tunnels can form. Strong winds can easily affect the stability of suspended platforms and scaffolds, increasing the risk of a fall or serious accident. Quick moving storms can also pose a serious risk for being hit by lightning if a window washing crew is not able to get off the scaffold before the storm arrives.
All window washing employers must follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety regulation, as well as applicable state and local laws. OSHA guidelines include specifications for scaffolds, safety harnesses, specific safety equipment that must be used, how equipment is stored, and the physical and mental conditions of the window washers. Window washing companies, as well as the owners of the buildings being washed, should have written safety plans regarding best practices for each specific building.
Window washing accidents can seriously injure or kill hard workers who are just trying to do their jobs. Faulty equipment or unstable scaffolding can quickly cause a window washer to face a terrifying drop. Other causes of window washing accidents include collapsing ladders, safety equipment issues, lack of safety lines, misuse of safety equipment, and negligent maintenance or work behavior. Property owners, contractors, and the window washer’s employer are all responsible for maintaining safe practices and a safe work environment.
If you have been involved in a window washing accident in Houston, it is critical that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible in order to preserve your rights to make an injury claim. Even if you can file for workers’ compensation through your employer, that likely won’t cover all of your accident-related expenses. If a third party was responsible for the accident in any way, you may be able to file a claim against them as well.
Houston Work Injury Attorneys
All workers deserve a safe work environment, including window washers. If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious or fatal window washing accident, contact the legal team at J.D. Silva and Associates, PLLC today to discuss your case. We know this is a difficult time for you and your family and we will guide you through the legal process quickly and smoothly. There is limited time to act, so contact our office today.