As a professional window cleaner, keeping yourself safe ‘on the job’ should be as important to you as leaving a sparkling and streak-free finish. Conducting a window cleaning risk assessment is a crucial step in keeping yourself and your employees safe, as well as the employees or residents at the property where you are carrying out your window cleaning duties. This is especially true when the job at hand will require you to work at height.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, a risk assessment for professional window cleaning is a legal requirement – but what do you need to know? Below we’ll explain why, when and how you should conduct a window cleaning risk assessment, so you can carry out your job confidently and safely.
What is a risk assessment, and why do I need one?
Whatever the nature of your workplace, any potential risks to health and safety that it presents must be controlled. If you are an employer, or self-employed, it is your legal responsibility to identify the significant hazards could cause harm (or ‘risk’) to people in your workplace, and whether you are taking reasonable and sensible steps to minimise these risks. This is called a risk assessment.
As an employer (or self-employed person) you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that risk assessments are carried out, however it may be that you delegate this to another individual in your business, such as a health and safety representative.
When should a window cleaning risk assessment be carried out?
As a professional window cleaner, you should conduct a risk assessment every time that you begin work at a new location. You must also keep this risk assessment up to date, should anything change with the nature of work that is being carried out.
Your commercial customers may request a risk assessment before you start working for them, but it is good practice for you to always ensure that one is carried out whenever starting work at a new site so that any potential risks can be identified and minimised as early as possible. You are also legally required to record the findings your risk assessment if your window cleaning business has five or more employees, but you should also carry out a risk assessment if you are a self-employed window cleaner.
Under the Work at Height Regulations 2005, employers are also required to take steps to prevent their employees from falls or injury when working at height. If a window cleaning job requires you or your employees to work at height, a risk assessment will identify the particular risks and their severity, so that you can take precautions to minimise or reduce them.
It is also your responsibility to ensure that window cleaning at height is properly planned, supervised, and carried out by competent people that have received any necessary training for the job in hand, using appropriate window cleaning equipment. For more information, take a look at the Health and Safety Executive’s information on Working at Height Whilst Window Cleaning.
How do I carry out a risk assessment for window cleaning?
An important thing to bear in mind when conducting a risk assessment is the difference between a hazard and a risk. A hazard is anything that can cause harm, such as window cleaning chemicals or working at height, and the risk is the chance that a person could be harmed by the hazard, with an indication of how serious that harm could be.
The 5 steps to completing a window cleaning risk assessment are:
1. Identify the hazards
The first step of a risk assessment is identifying the hazards, as described above. Begin by making a list of all of the potential hazards that you can think of when window cleaning at a particular location – however minor they may seem.
2. Decide who might be harmed, and how
Whether it is yourself, your employees, persons working or visiting at the site, or the general public, your risk assessment must include who could be at risk as a result of the work being carried out – and why this is.
3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
When you have identified the hazards of window cleaning, you must then identify how great the risks are that they present, and what you will do to address this. If the risks are high, then you must take ‘reasonably practicable’ measures to reduce or eliminate them, and identify what these measures are – for example, if you are required to clean windows at height, can you use a long-reach window cleaning tool such as the Unger Stingray Indoor Cleaning Kit, or is there an existing balcony from which you can safely clean the window rather than erecting scaffolding?
Remember you are not expected to eliminate every possible risk; if the measures you would need to take to control a risk are disproportionate to the level of risk presented, then this is not reasonable.
4. Record your significant findings
If you have five or more employees, you are legally required to record the significant findings of your risk assessment – you can find a handy risk assessment template from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) here. However, even when you aren’t required to record your findings, you may find it useful to do so if you may need to review your risk assessment at a later date.
5. Review your risk assessment and update if necessary
You should keep your risk assessment up to date, and you may feel it is necessary to update it if there are any significant changes – such as change to the building which may affect how you clean the windows, if you change the window cleaning products you use, or bring in a new procedure.
For more information for professional window cleaners, take a look at our blog post What Do Professional Window Cleaners Use to Clean Windows?, or if you are thinking of starting your own window cleaning business, take our Window Cleaning Quiz to test your knowledge!
What are the most common hazards and risks that you identify when completing a window cleaning risk assessment? Leave us a comment below or send us a tweet at @BunzlCleaning to share them with us.