Safety at heights is the basic requirement for the kind of work carried out in the construction industry. This industry is the second largest employer of manpower in India but it also has the highest rate of accidents and deaths, four times more than Europe.
Most of the developed countries have regulations for working on heights and for use of scaffoldings. In cases where there are no regulations, there are strong associations and well defined practices. There are also formal documents like BSI – British Standard, Operators Safety Guide.
In terms of usage of powered access like Scissor Platforms or Boom lifts there is an association called the IPAF (International Powered Access Federation). This federation actually trains and certifies people for using different types of powered access. Unfortunately, such certification is not done in India despite the wide usage of powered access throughout the country.
Since window cleaners scale and descend buildings that are more than 50m high, it is imperative that cleaners be medically checked for ailments that could affect their performance. This medical examination needs to be carried out at the time of induction into the company/contract. As per the British Standards, a cleaner working at heights must be medically checked for:
- Heart disease
- High or low blood pressure
- Epilepsy / fits / vertigo
- Giddiness / difficulty with balance
- Impaired limb function
- Alcohol or drug dependence
- Psychiatric Illness
A basic rope access kit would typically include the following:
- Working line: This is the main line with which the worker descends
- Safety line: The line adjacent to the main line. Worker should be connect to both lines
- Ascender: Used when the cleaner needs to climb up the rope
- Back-up device: A back-up rope adjustment device attached to the back-up safety line protects the technician from a fall if the main working line fails or if the technician slips or loses control in any way. The back-up device is intended to lock on to the safety line without causing damage to the rope, and absorbing any shock load that may occur, thus preventing a fall from occurring.
- Helmet: A helmet is used to provide head protection to the wearer from injury of any type. There are two European standards governing helmets for work at height. Unfortunately in India, helmets are not used for full advantage.
- Chest harness: A chest harness is used to convert a regular work positioning harness into a fall arrest harness, with a suitable attachment to connect the two. The chest harness is worn around the upper body when working and is essential for ascending the rope. The ascending device is usually attached between the chest harness and the sit harness thus connecting the two harnesses for total body support. This harness will keep the cleaner safe in event of the failure of the rest of the equipment as he is preparing to climb down a building.
- Chest ascender: An ascender is a rope adjustment device which, when attached to an anchored rope of appropriate type and diameter, locks under load in one direction and slides freely in the opposite direction.
- Work harness: Used while coming down the building.
- Descender: A descender is a manually operated, friction inducing, rope adjustment device, which when attached to an anchored rope of appropriate type and diameter, allows the user to achieve a controlled descent and to stop with hands off anywhere on the anchor line. Descenders are normally used in industrial rope access for descending the working line or positioning the operative.