This month, the International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) is excited to begin a new series in this magazine. Some years ago, the IWCA utilized a monthly newsletter, “A Drop in the Bucket,” to deliver safety and other updates to its members. This new series will revitalize “A Drop in the Bucket,” expanding our message beyond our members to include the entire window cleaning community. The purpose of the series aligns with the main goal of the association: Safety. 

Established in 1989 as a nonprofit organization, the IWCA and the people who have comprised its Board of Directors, committees, and members have spent the last decades developing and promoting safety in the window cleaning industry. 

After years of dedication to this effort – largely led by IWCA’s longtime Safety Director, Stefan Bright – the IWCA was accepted into the OSHA Alliance Program in 2010. OSHA explains that this program “enables the agency to develop voluntary, collaborative working relationships with organizations that are committed to workplace safety and health.” Through that alliance, the Water-Fed Pole Safety Training guide was developed and approved by OSHA in English and Spanish-language formats.

In May 2020, the IWCA achieved the designation of OSHA Ambassador. OSHA explains the significance of this relationship on its website:

In recognition of this ongoing commitment, OSHA will continue to foster an active relationship with IWCA by: Sharing invitations to, and offering opportunities to speak at, OSHA Alliance Program and other agency stakeholder meetings or events, such as outreach and training activities through the National, Regional, or Area Offices, and the National Alliance Program Construction Roundtable and Forum. Engaging in information sharing and technical discussions, as appropriate, including completing special projects of mutual interest….

This ambassadorship enables the IWCA to be the leading voice of safety for the window cleaning industry in the United States and Puerto Rico, advising OSHA on the best safe practices the IWCA has established for workers within this jurisdiction. With that authority and the safety of workers always top of mind, the organization has developed several training items to serve its membership and the larger professional window cleaning community. These include the IWCA Safe Practices for Rope Descent Systems, the OSHA 1910 course, Window Cleaning Foundations, Commercial Ground Safety Training, Route/Residential Safety Training, and Water-Fed Pole Safety Training. All of these courses are available in English and Spanish, with translation work beginning in other languages. 

Through the promotion of safety awareness and training, the window cleaning industry in the United States saw a drastic reduction in injuries and fatalities in recent years. Happily, in fact, fatalities were reduced to zero for consecutive years, a commendable achievement for our industry. Safety training and awareness work. 

Alarmingly, in the last year, our industry has seen an uptick in accidents that have resulted in serious injury or death from falls from height and electrocution deaths. It is important that none of us become complacent. Complacency could cost us our livelihood. Complacency could cost us our lives. Owners, managers, and technicians must always be aware of their heavy responsibility to keep themselves and others safe. 

What are the best safety practices for using water-fed poles, rope descent systems, walking-working surfaces, and operating machinery? How often should your equipment and safety gear be inspected? Do you have a method to create a risk analysis or job hazard assessment before beginning work? Are you in compliance with the safety items required in your work vehicle? Are helmets at height really necessary? These, and many other questions, will be addressed in the coming articles for this series.  

The IWCA is very happy to be contributing to the AWC magazine, a mainstay in our beloved industry. We hope you enjoy reading and receive benefit from our content. Stay safe. 

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This article was contributed by Brandi Harper, IWCA Secretary/Treasurer, on behalf of the International Window Cleaning Association.