Responsible Window Cleaning

July 31, 2006
With the increasing use of window and glass coverage on newer façades, specialized maintenance is necessary

By Stefan Bright

A major concern for the owner or operator of any facility is the care of the structure. With the increasing use of window and glass coverage on newer façades, additional, specialized attention is needed.

Weather and the local climate can have a significant impact on the condition and endurance of glass surfaces. While heavy or acid-filled rain, wind, and oceanfront conditions can wreak havoc on the overall exterior of a building, it is the glass and windows which endure major damage in these climates. Even normal rainfall can eventually cause damage to glass if not monitored carefully. Rainwater run-off can pass over the metal or precast surfaces that surround a window or panel, carrying tiny particles onto the glass and leaving deposits on the surface. Over time, permanent damage can occur to the outer layer of the glass.

Cleaning windows on a regular basis will help keep climatic conditions in check and can save you thousands and thousands of dollars in window-replacement costs over time. Typically, quarterly cleaning is standard in the industry, with greater frequencies in areas with above-average rainfall and buildings in coastal climates.

Just as building designs have continued to evolve, so has the window-cleaning industry. Once a generalist’s field, window cleaning is now a highly specialized profession with its own regulations, safety and training guidelines, international trade association, and certification institute.

For almost half a century, professional window cleaning at commercial facilities developed without a clear and concise guideline outlining safe and accepted practices. For instance, contractors were using equipment that enabled workers to be suspended from the roof of a building by a rope-descending system (see photo). In many cases, window-cleaning contractors were performing guesswork when it came to rigging or using other equipment to access the windows. For these reasons, a new window-cleaning safety standard was developed.

On Oct. 25, 2001, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved the Intl. Window Cleaning Association’s (IWCA) I-14.1 Window Cleaning Safety Standard for publication as an American National Standard. Since its publication, all regional OSHA offices throughout the country have been enforcing workplace safety for window cleaning using this standard.

In essence, the ANSI/IWCA I-14.1 standard suggests that property management and the window-cleaning contractor need to share the responsibility of creating a safe place to work by exchanging written assurances that can identify and abate known safety hazards. Having validation like this is a sure way to eliminate guesswork during the window-cleaning operation. The property manager is responsible for the building and any or all permanent equipment or structure that the contractor may use. The window cleaner must provide transportable equipment that meets or exceeds industry standards and workers with validated training in the safe and correct use of any equipment that may be used.

Given all of the recent advancements in the window-cleaning field, it makes good sense to use the services of a professional window-cleaning company that is well versed in current industry trends and safety standards to provide the necessary maintenance for your facility.

Stefan Bright is safety director at the Alexandria, VA-based Intl. Window Cleaning Association (

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