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Even With Workplace Safety Precautions, Window Washing is Dangerous

Even with the best workplace safety precautions, window washing is a dangerous job in New York City. Workers are on platforms high above the street. Any malfunction in equipment can send a window washer plummeting to the ground or stuck many stories above the street. There are many near misses, as the two workers trapped on a scaffold high above the street at One World Trade Center can attest.

Injuries to window washers happen anywhere there are tall buildings. Just last week, a worker in Abu Dhabi was rescued by a drone near the 10th floor of a high rise building. The drone showed the worker how to fix the stuck scaffolding, allowing him to descend on his own.

A window washer in suburban Deerfield, Illinois, fell into a shaft and had to be lifted out in a basket. That incident is under investigation by the Chicago office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Last April, a worker fell six stories while washing windows at a new building in Northwest Washington, D.C., near a Metro station. Last year, a window washer in Knoxville was thrown from a lift, falling 60 feet to the ground. He later died.

It's not just workers who are injured in window washing accidents. In Boston this past summer, a man standing under a scaffold set up for widow washing at the John Hancock Tower was seriously injured when the scaffolding plummeted to the ground.

And falls are not the only culprit in causing window washing injuries. A worker in San Bernardino, California, was seriously burned when the 30 foot extension pole he was using accidentally touched overhead wires.

Thankfully, there are some times when no one is hurt. In San Diego this past September, a window washing scaffold began to swing back and forth, crashing into the building and breaking windows before workers were able to secure it. Authorities say that high winds caused the scaffold to break free and began to swing. In Irvine, California, two workers had to be rescued last month when the platform on which they were working became stuck at the 17th floor. The fire department raised the platform to the roof of the building, and the workers were unharmed.

In New York City, a pair of window washers became stuck last week when the platform on which they were working stopped moving and was hanging at a slant. Although the workers managed to bring the platform down by themselves, one was injured and was rushed to the hospital with undisclosed injuries. The incident occurred at the Federal Reserve Building at Maiden Lane in Manhattan.