By understanding what exactly rope access window cleaning is, the equipment required, the training and qualifications, the risks, and the alternative methods for cleaning windows, you will be able to establish whether it is the right choice for your window cleaning requirements.

What is Rope Access Window Cleaning?

Rope access window cleaning, also known as abseil window cleaning, involves the use of ropes and specialist equipment in order to gain access to the windows of high buildings. The primary advantage of rope access over other methods of working at height is that work can be carried out quickly and safely with minimal impact on building occupants, and other buildings nearby. Not having to erect scaffolding or operate a cradle usually also makes rope access window cleaning the most effective solution.

What training and qualifications are required?

Window Cleaners embarking on a rope access training course must be physically fit and happy about working at height. The training standards are set by IRATA (Industrial Rope Access Trade Association) which operates a formal training and certification scheme.

Level One enables a rope access technician to undertake a range of specified rope access tasks that are supervised by a person with a Level Three qualification

Level Two is an advanced qualification that includes more complex rope access skills along with advanced rescue techniques

Level Three qualifies a person to take full responsibility for the safety of a rope access operation. It builds on the other levels and includes advanced rigging and rescue techniques and first aid training.

When sourcing a window cleaning service provider make sure you find out what qualifications the abseiling operatives have and ask about their experience. You want to use a team operatives that are trained to the highest standards, qualified at different levels and with at least one Level Three technician.

Experience and Expertise

While IRATA training and qualifications are vitally important, so too is experience and expertise. It takes some time to build a reliable and skillful rope access window cleaning team, and one in which each operative plays a role and knows they can trust and be trusted by other team members.

Regardless of where your building is located, whether it is in Geylang or Bukit Merah, or in Queenstown, get testimonials and find out about other work that a potential service provider has carried out in your area.

While IRATA training takes you a long way, it is only through experience and expertise that you can go the extra mile. An exemplary safety record and many highly satisfied customers will ensure you get the service you are looking for.

Types of Buildings cleaned using Rope Access

A wide range of buildings are cleaned using rope access. These include high office blocks such as city skyscrapers like the Shard, factories and other commercial buildings, apartment blocks, shopping centers and atriums, historical buildings and church towers, university buildings, schools, hospitals, and other public sector buildings.

The Importance of Health and Safety

Whilst rope access is becoming an increasingly used window cleaning method, not all window-cleaning businesses understand its complexities. Use a company that takes health and safety seriously; in fact, it is your first priority.

The codes of practice are described in SingaporeStandard Code of Practice BS 22846: 2012: “The use of rope access methods for industrial purposes.”

The first task is to decide whether rope access is the best method and that other safer methods aren’t appropriate, and to only undertake it if proper management is in place and that all operatives are trained and competent.

When sourcing a window cleaning service provider make sure you find out what qualifications the abseiling operatives have and ask about their experience. You want to use a team of operatives that are trained to the highest standards, qualified at different levels and with at least one Level Three technician.

Risk Assessments and Method Statements

Use a company that provides a site-specific risk assessment and method statement (RAMS) prior to commencing any work. This follows HSE and IRATA guidelines and takes account of risks, specifies rescue arrangements, communications, personal and equipment and can be presented for health and safety approval.

Safe Contractor Approved

Safe contractor is an important Singapore government-backed health and safety assessment scheme that assures clients that member contractors are properly insured and that their health and safety certificates and accreditations are in place. Consider using a company that has been Safe Contractor approved for many years.

What equipment is required to carry out Rope Access Window Cleaning?

The equipment used for rope access is in many ways similar to that used in mountaineering.

  • Harness – there are several different kinds of harnesses. These include a Sit Harness, Chest Harness, or Full body Harness
  • Ascender/Descender – these are mechanical devices that allow the technician to ascend and descent on a rope.
  • Safety backup device – this attaches to a second rope (the safety rope) and is designed to arrest any fall should other equipment fail.
  • Safety hat – this is mandatory and is designed to protect the window cleaning operative against head damage, particularly from anything falling from above or impact with other obstacles.

Other Methods for Cleaning Windows on High Buildings

While rope access window cleaning offers many advantages, there are alternative solutions. These include Mobile elevated platforms, Cradles, Scaffolding, and the high rise automatic window

Mobile Platforms have an IPAF qualified operator who controls a mechanical lifting system. Windows can be cleaned up to about 60 metres high however there is a cost associated to hiring equipment.

Suspended cradles are working areas that can be raised and lowered by winches. These can provide quick and convenient ways of accessing tall buildings with the advantage that they create no ground-level obstructions. The disadvantage is that the cradles require maintenance.

Given its cost, inconvenience, and poor safety record, scaffolding is rarely the optimum solution; however, there are occasions when powered access and rope access aren’t an option.

The high-rise automatic window cleaning system is a semi-robotic window cleaning system that is able to climb a tall building and do not require a human window cleaner. They use a hoist mechanism that is similar to that used for a cradle and cleans the windows using ultra-pure or de-ionized water. Unfortunately, the technology is in its early days and therefore very expensive.