In the past, window-washers here in New York City had one of the most dangerous jobs there were. Thankfully, over the years, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the implementation of safety regulations have eliminated many of the former dangers.
Still, this remains a high-risk job without a doubt. The big problem is that when you are working 20 or 30 stories (or more) above the ground, there’s very little margin for error. When things go wrong on the job, they tend to be catastrophic.
There have also been other changes. In an attempt to automate the industry, some companies use robots to clean skyscraper windows. But for various reasons, the trend has been slow to take hold.
Some robotic machines have been used on buildings with 10 or fewer stories. But the safety director for the International Window Cleaning Association stated that the buildings must “be all glass because brick and windows can really mess things up.”
Despite the inherent dangers, the mortality rates for window cleaners remain statistically quite low. While window-washing is considered to be a job for relatively unskilled workers, that doesn’t mean that these aren’t a select group.
Window-washers have to be oblivious to the fear of heights that would freeze most people in their tracks. They must be agile and hardworking and willing to work in challenging weather conditions year-round.
When asked about the job by a reporter from NBC News, one Manhattan window-washer said, “Some of us think there’s an art to what we do. I’ve seen the machines, but I still believe a man on the glass washing windows does it best.”
If you are a NYC window-washer who was injured on the job, learn about your legal right to seek compensation for your damages and industries.