August 13, 2014
In the afternoon of August 11, 2014, two window cleaners were stranded up 21 floors on the 32 story Ted Weiss Federal Building at 290 Broadway Avenue in lower Manhattan. They were stranded for 40 minutes until firefighters lowered ropes and cut a small hole in window to pull them to safety inside. New York State has the toughest window cleaning safety laws in the nation. It is the NYS Department of Labor Safety Code Rule 21. Some scaffold companies, during inspection, do not fully test the rigs and sign off that they pass a safety inspection. I believe some property and building owners overlook expensive repairs of scaffolds because of the Scaffold Law in New York State. This law has to be changed because it transfers all liability to the window cleaning company when working with heights over two stories. It indemnifies the building and property owners of any responsibility in case of an accident. The Scaffold Law also makes it hard to obtain liability insurance for window cleaning company’s, and makes it very expensive because the Insurances Company’s do not want the risk to insure them. These laws make the window cleaning company employees responsible to test the rigs themselves before use. The employees use their own judgment to determine whether or not the scaffold they are going to get on is safe to use or not. The alternative is to loose a day of pay or even weeks’ worth of work. The Scaffold Law needs to be changed or eliminated because some window cleaners feel forced to take the chance and work to feed their family, and that decision might just be the last one they make. At least in this situation, the 2 window cleaners ended up safe but, the next time it could have a much different ending.
Kevin E. Kram Pres., of Main Window Cleaning of Rochester New York, Inc.