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Does My Building Need a Window Washing Anchorage System?

Jan 9, 2020 4:44:27 AM

Clients with properties requiring window washing sometimes ask if they need a window washing anchorage system.  This seemingly simple question requires a somewhat complex answer.  Here’s why….

Suspended Façade Access?
Before a fall protection company can give a definitive yes or no to the question posed above, some additional information is needed.  The first point requiring clarification is “how will the window washing contractor clean the windows?”  If any means of suspension is required to access a building facade, anchors are required by OSHA to support tieback of equipment and personnel safety lines. Counterweighted outriggers or other portable rigging devices may be used to support equipment lines, but must be tied directly back and inline to an anchorage point. Each portable rigging device should be tied back to an OSHA compliant anchorage point and each safety line must be tied back to a separate and independent anchorage point per OSHA 1910.27(b)(2)(vi).  This provision ensures that any failure of the rope decent system (e.g., main friction device, seat board, support line, or anchorage) does not affect the ability of the fall arrest system to stop a worker from falling to a lower level.

suspended access facade maintenance

window washing aerial lifr


Building Height Considerations
If the building facade is accessible via other means such as aerial lift or water fed poles for window washing, an anchorage system is not required. The height of the building alone does not stipulate need for an anchorage system.  The primary drivers are the means and methods used to for facade access.

Onsite review with a qualified building facade contractor to determine available means and methods is often a productive starting point. Depending on the height, adjacent landscape features, and type of maintenance required, various access options may be available. When all or part of the facade is not accessible or is cost prohibitive using temporary access means such as aerial lift, a fall protection anchorage contractor should be engaged to determine the most cost effective solution available to support suspension. When multiple access options are available, comparison of capital improvement costs for implementation of a suspended access anchorage system versus expenses associated with temporary access over the service life of the building is an objective and worthwhile exercise.

window washing suspended access

A Reminder on Compliance and Liability
It is important to note that a contractor’s use of any suspended access method without compliant anchorage tieback is not only a liability to the contractor, but represents liability and potential OSHA citation for building owners as well. For more information regarding responsibilities and liabilities associated with use of a suspended access anchorage system, refer to our separate post here.

Next Steps
Regular window washing helps to maintain the appearance of your building, but maintenance work of this nature requires a proper mix of suspended access and fall arrest  anchorage, and training to ensure OSHA compliance and worker safety.  To learn more or to request assistance with a specific application, contact the safety specialists at Diversified Fall Protection for further assistance.