Unsafe practices

I just wanted to put my .02 in on high rise safe work practice. (Toronto area)

To start, I don’t have high rise window cleaning experience. However, I do have lots of experience working on rope at heights up to 1200 ft. I have both SPRAT and IRATA certificates, Fall arrest cert., Rescue from Height cert., Technical Rope Rescue cert., and I also teach Rescue from heights and safe climbing for the wind turbine industry so I know a thing or two about safety at height.

I have been running a small window cleaning company on the side for a couple of months now and based on the positive response, I have decided to go full force and expand into high rise work as well. I know all of the rules and reg’s for this in my area and I am comfortable with moving forward and conquering this feat.

So just to get some hands on experience in high rise window cleaning, I applied to 2 companies. Both located in Toronto. I will not name names as they are both great companies and do excellent work. I respectfully turned down job offers from both of them at their interviews because of my own safety issues.

The scope of the job was to work solo, on ropes with no other employees on site which is EXTREMELY unsafe. Nobody can ever put up an argument that would make me even come remotely close to thinking otherwise. When working at height, on rope (boatswain’s/bosun’s chair) There should always, ALWAYS be at least a second person and they should never leave each others site. If visual contact absolutely cannot be maintained 100% then radio contact should be maintained at least every minute.

In the rope access industry, in addition to being trained in self rescue, every person on site is trained in rescue which is crucial should someone encounter/develop suspension trauma (which is DEADLY)

Suspension trauma- once the first symptoms appear- can be deadly in as little as 15 minutes. Does anyone know how long it takes (on average) for the fire department to perform a rescue at height? Very long. First, someone has see the person dangling there not moving (without a partner that could be a long time) Then the 911 call 1.5 min. on the phone. They will generally take 5-7 min to arrive (much longer during rush hour) When fire/rescue arrives, they have to do their own assessment 10 min. Find the engineers documentation stating that the anchor points are approved and inspections are up to date (hopefully they are on hand and not with the building management who may have stepped out). They have to call that engineer and verify that it is their signature on the documentation (again, hopefully they are available) once this is done, they have to determine the equipment that will be needed to perform a rescue to NFPA standards (this is in Canada) If that equipment is not all on that truck, they must dispatch another unit (Technical rope rescue unit which are not at every fire hall, they could be 20 minutes away) Then, once everyone is there, they have to get all of their men AND equipment to the top of the building and devise a rescue plan to get this person down (which by this time, if the victim is unconscious, this rescue will most certainly have turned into a recovery due to cardiac arrest as a result of suspension trauma) Then they have to perform the rescue/recovery slowly and safely.

All of this can be avoided if workers are trained in rescue, write up a quick rescue plan, work safely and by the guidelines and never EVER work alone.

This may seem like a rant but This doesn’t even scratch the surface of working safe and preventing accidents.

Murphy’s law “if it can happen, it WILL!” and at the worst possible time.

PS Anyone who has a high rise window cleaning company within an hour of Toronto who is hiring, I can work a couple days a week. If this hasn’t driven you away :slight_smile:

Thanks for reading

Good post. Thanks for taking the time…

I’ll admit I’ve done drops while completely alone on the job.
What’s funny, is the reason I stopped!

It was the late 80’s-early 90’s and I had fairly long hair, but would wear a hat during work hours.
I forgot it one day and my hair got caught in the racks.

With no blade on me, and nobody around to drop me one, I had to light a cigarette and singe the hair that was stuck.

I swore I’d never drop alone, and haven’t since.
(Blessing in disguise? Divine intervention?)

Thanks for the great post, Jeff.

Sticking with my Gardiner SL-56 for the time being…

The hair being caught is a perfect example. Working on ropes (properly) is one of the safest work environments one can be in. Working on ropes alone is one of the most dangerous.

I too use WFP for almost all of my window cleaning work. But they only go so high. Besides, I am pumped about trying to break in to the high rise industry because I know it’s going to be quite the challenge.

I gotta admit. Thats the first I’ve heard of smoking saving a life lol

Sounds crazy, but it’s an in the field adjustment…

Howdy Highline.

Your a man with much knowledge in doing chair work. I think all your points were excellent, keep moving up and you’ll have that end of the industry in your back pocket…That’s where the big buck happen per job…highly competitive but wide open dude.

I hope the best for you and that you’ll move up to high rise ! Good luck and always think safe.

Dangerous Dave

when i plan any high rise work i all ways have a trained roof man. he works as rescue, spotter and moves the ropes at the end of the drop and repositions them,then when the chair man gets back up, the down time of moving ropes is considerably shorter. He can then check the chair mans equipment and help him off the roof. the minimum i work is two chair guys to one roof man. my staff goes home at the end of the day that way. then i only use the best equipment as there can be no sort cuts on safety

Wow, I had no knowledge of Suspension Trauma. I have to give it to you high-rise guys, it takes a rare breed!

This post further solidifies my non-interest in getting into high rise window cleaning… I don’t want to end up in Karl’s blog


It does take a a bit of “getting over” and very much trust in who you work with when getting into work at heights. Even with no fear of heights. If someone doesn’t even think twice about going over an edge then something may be wrong with them lol

Working off of ropes is extremely safe when done properly i.e. knowing your equipment, inspections and engineered anchor points. Kern-mantle rope is rated for upwards of 9000/lbs and so are some of the secondary/back-up fall arrest lines.

Here in Ontario, Canada, high rise window cleaning is heavily regulated so it is safe. Although there are even safer ways now which we can not practice. The rules and regs were done in 1990 or so and could definitely use some re-vamping. I plan to go in front of the board once I kick-off in the high-rise field and re-visit these regs and hopefully get them at least on-board with more current practices and equipment.

I would encourage everyone to look into suspension trauma. Google it, PM me as I would be glad to help and share my knowledge. I have been teaching this sort of stuff for almost 5 years so there is much to share so please ask questions.

To the guys that do high rise stuff. I would recommend you invest $15.00 for each employee and pick up everyone a set of trauma loops/trauma straps in case there is ever a time where someone is stuck and has to wait for a rescue. You never know what may happen up there. You won’t even notice these things on your harness.


This is a great thread you’ve started and it gives many good insight to high-rise / mid-rise work.

Keep this thread going by filling us with knowledge and understanding of the aspects of doing hi work !

I use to call it venous pooling which is the same thing, but the definition you are using is much more in line !

I fell off a 7 story building once and had the knowledge of venous pooling so I was able to prevent it ! Not with the trauma loops/trauma straps nor Prusik knots but a loop I tied in my safety line…

Its a long story and I was afraid my co-workers were going call me Firetruck Dave !

So I think you should continue divulging knowledge and educating us all here on the forum, there are many, many here who would garner all you have to teach !

I’m deeply glad you are here, your a great addition to the forum along with Mr. Jon Collins.

Dangerous Dange

i have been jumping heights for many years and even now it takes a few coffee’s and multiple checks before i take that first drop on any job.I know all the breaking strains, safety checks anchor checks are done and every thing is safe. IT STILL LOOKS A LONG WAY DOWN

I am more than happy to educate on any topics to do with height. It is a great thing to know that people are actually interested to learn some things.

Most people who have been in any industry have a common attitude that “I’ve been doing this for ‘xx’ years and nothing has happened yet” Key word here, “YET” When I am teaching a class for height related stuff I always ask if anyone has an embarrassing story - a trip and fall in front of a chick, stubbing your toe (simple stuff)- Then when someone is man/woman enough to tell a funny story about a small injury, I go back to “not so funny mode” and ask “You’ve been walking all these years and still trip or stub your toe or walk into something” I don’t care how long anyone has been doing anything. Bottom line is, mistakes happen. Mistakes will always happen, maybe not to you or your employees.

John, it puts a smile on my face to know that you admit being “aware” that you are working at height. It’s that small (or large) amount of fear instilled in all of us that gets us home to our friends and family at night.


Your so right, anything can happen to anyone, anytime, anyplace, I know because it has happen to me and by the hand of God I still live and breath today !

We all need to check, double check triple check, then, check it again ! We always have to think things through and work out the problems, it only worth our life and limb !

A lot of times it’s the seasoned cleaner who gets nailed because they may think I’ve been doing this for years, or they think it’s OK to cut crucial corners and not fellow the whole process !

Walking the edge of a flat roof like your walking a sidewalk is a common mistake, I always walk at least 4’ from the edge as though there is a parapet wall there. I’m always watching my feet to be sure not be step on my ropes or anything that can cause a fall, the same with residential !

Gravity is a good tool but can be very dangerous and the ground will not move out of the way. Be Safe yawl !


while i was sitting here reading this. thinking to my self about safety on Friday. the dreaded fax arrived followed by the email with blue prints. some one on this site, gave me a safety reference. and i walked strait in to a 36 floor industrial clean with rope chair podium and stage work. so when you think about safety it pays off nice little 28 day job about $50.000. so make safety your no one concern