Keeping Window Cleaners Safe and Sound
Every August, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal program within the United States Department of Labor, hosts Safe + Sound Week. This week of activity promotes workplace safety and allows businesses to celebrate the safety successes they have achieved within the last year.
If you’ve never participated in Safe + Sound Week, we invite you to begin planning now for your participation in August 2024. The Safe + Sound website offers abundant resources for companies of any size to utilize to build a safety program and ensure you’re doing all you can to keep yourself and your workers safe.
An example of one of those resources is the Hierarchy of Controls chart. To get started, OSHA suggests that businesses can identify one hazard to control within your workplace and to be sure to involve your workers since they will have the best understanding to identify the hazard and provide solutions to manage it.
Plan a safety walkaround and inspect each work area. Include your workers in this inspection. Always make sure new hires are aware of any potential hazards. This should be done even in your office, in the shop, and certainly on every job site via a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA). Please refer to IWCA’s article in this magazine’s March 2023 issue for more information on JHAs.
Safety should always be the primary concern whether running a one-man operation or with dozens of employees. Create a safety policy, emphasize its importance to your workers, and be sure to include a policy of accountability. Encourage your workers to speak up for safety. If they see a potential hazard, reward them for addressing it promptly. If they see a fellow worker engaging in an unsafe practice, provide a procedure for them to report it. From OSHA’s worker participation challenge, “Create a culture of trust where workers are encouraged to speak up.”
This year, OSHA focused on an aspect of safety often overlooked or dismissed, especially in blue-collar industries like window cleaning. Its focus this year was on mental health and wellness. In order to keep our workers safe and sound, we were encouraged to provide access to mental health resources and services. Employers should be flexible and allow adequate leave for workers needing it. OSHA’s tagline this year was “Good Headspace Helps Make a Safe Workplace.” Providing support to workers in this way will help you as an employer to mitigate hazard exposures for distracted or overwhelmed workers. Find resources like telehealth options at osha.gov.
The International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) encourages you to utilize OSHA’s website to build or improve your safety plan. Doing so will help you to accomplish these steps to “provide the leadership, vision, and resources needed to implement an effective safety and health program as you deliver a safety and health message, establish a visible presence, formalize and publicize your commitment, and take your commitment beyond your organization.” (osha.gov/safeandsound) As a designated OSHA ambassador, the IWCA is an OSHA partner for the Safe + Sound program. This partnership aligns with our mission to promote the success of members through standards of safety, education, advocacy, and research. New professional member packages were just launched in August and now include Campus IWCA access for ten employees, one included convention registration, and annual and monthly subscription options. Visit iwca.org to join today for access to industry-specific education, training, and support.
Brandi Harper, IWCA Secretary/Treasurer, Board of Directors