Falls, such as those arising when maintaining or cleaning windows, are amongst the most frequent and dangerous industrial accidents, because these very often result in death. Apart from the legal obligation, employers also have a moral responsibility for the safety of their employees during high-risk activities of this type.
In the end, it’s a matter of preventing personal suffering, pain, and sadness. But also for the affected companies, serious damages can arise from such an industrial accident – absences because of illness, indemnity claims, compensation, legal consequences, etc.
In contrast, accident prevention demonstrates that you deal with your personnel responsibly. That also significantly enhances your image as an employer.
How does the legal environment look here?
As mentioned at the start, employers are legally obliged to ensure that maintenance measures and cleaning tasks at windows are structured to be as safe as possible.
In principle, these activities may be performed safely from the ground as long as the following ranges (from the employee’s standing location) are complied with: approx. max. 1.8 m upwards and 0.5 m to both sides, and 0.6 m when bending down. The balustrade must be at least 95 cm high. In all other cases a window fall protection system must be used.
The fall protection system
For window cleaning, collective protection, such as the Modular Fall Prevention System for Windows (MFS), should always be used.
If this is not possible, then suitable personal protective equipment such as a safety harness (PPE against fall) should be used. This must be attached to an anchorage device having an arresting force of at least 7.5 kN.
The height of the window fall protection must be at least 100 cm, and if the fall height is more than 12 m, then the height must be as much as 110 cm. Window ledges may be used as standing surfaces only if they have a minimum width of 25 cm and sufficient load-bearing capacity.
A high risk of falling exists above all when the cleaners have to bend out of the window, for example to clean top lights. In this case, window fall protection is mandatory when the working height exceeds one metre.
Walkways for cleaning must be at least 0.5 m wide, and they must not have openings larger than 35 mm. The workplace itself must be at least 0.5 m x 0.5 m in size.
You will find further information about the regulations relating to window cleaning at:
Planning protective measures:
Which equipment is permitted:
If windows cannot be accessed from the ground, then equipment is required. This can include facade railings or side protection, e.g. roller scaffolds, raised working platforms, and steps and ladders.
Ascent aids must also be secured appropriately, and accessed wearing slip-resistant footwear only. In addition, it is inadvisable to carry bulky or heavy objects.
Which window fall protection system is best for my operation?
Not only are window fall protection systems prescribed legally, they also save lives. But not all fall protection systems are equal. In principle, a distinction is made between collective (guardrail) and individual protection (single anchor points with personal protective equipment).
In practice, the systems of most benefit are those which can be used and transported rapidly. The Modular Fall Prevention System for Windows (MFS) from INNOTECH is a very practical solution.
Modular Fall Prevention System for Windows – MFS
The MFS is a mobile window railing which keeps window cleaners at a distance from the fall edge. Because they prevent falls at windows from the outset, such systems are generally preferable to fall arrest devices. In addition they have the benefit that no personal protective equipment (PPE) needs to be worn.
The MFS from INNOTECH weighs very little, is inserted into the window frame by means of retractable telescopic rods, and is locked in place using pin-lockings. This process takes just a few simple steps.
The Modular Fall Prevention System for Windows can be deployed for almost all types of window, and after use it is quickly and easily removed, and transported to the next window or else stowed.
Single anchor points EAP
Single anchor points are fall arrest systems which are permanently anchored in the structure of the building . They are used in combination with personal protective equipment(PPE) as a restraint system.
For this, various solutions are available, such as removable, mobile anchor points for various substructures, and even door traverses.
For example, we offer the EAP-LOCK-13, which has a detachable, rotating anchorage eye. This solution simultaneously secures 2 persons who are wearing personal protective equipment.
Personal protective equipment(PPE)
Working while wearing PPE requires that the user is thoroughly trained. In our PSA-STRING, we have developed a complete harness system available in three models: Basic, Comfort, and Pro.
All three are of the highest quality and are intuitive to use. In addition, PSA-STRING provides optimum freedom of movement, and is repellent to water, oil, and dirt.
Special cases also require special solutions
With their magnificent stylish buildings, European cities and metropolitan areas are wonderful to visit. And so it should remain for future generations. These buildings therefore mostly enjoy listed protection status.
Often, right next to them are very modern buildings with impressive facades which become eyecatchers because of their large glazed areas and windows. And this brings us to the most frequent special cases in terms of window cleaning. These require special fall protection systems.
- The special solution for listed buildings:
In this case, it is generally necessary to use window fall protection systems which do not require drillings. The answer to this challenge is a clamped solution such as the MFS from INNOTECH. It was developed in part for these special cases, and is therefore equipped with rubber toppings at sensitive locations, so that no damage is caused.
- The special solution for windows with demanding dimensions:
Here too, the retractable telescopic rods of the MFS system are the optimum solution. They are flexible and can be rapidly and conveniently adapted to the relevant window size. If necessary, the MFS can also be supplemented by a net (MFS-NET-81).
Clamping or drilling? That is the question.
It should be noted that when the MFS is held in place by clamping, a maximum of 4 telescopic rods can be fitted. For taller windows requiring more transverse rods, the MFS therefore has to be fastened by means of drilling, as this imposes no limits.
However, the clamped solution does not damage the window frame. Both methods allow variable widths (maximum 2.5 m), and are therefore flexible in deployment.
The benefits of a well-founded safety concept
When it comes to protection against falls, it’s not only rules and regulations that matter. First and foremost, it’s all about protecting your own employees!
And: A solid and professional safety concept with certified fall protection systems provides the company with a number of benefits:
- Healthy employees thanks to a fall protection system at the window
No absences through injuries. Companies with a good reputation in terms of safety are considered to be responsible and attractive employees.
- No costs from injury-related absences
Every industrial accident prevented saves costs. The consequences of a fall are generally fatal. The window cleaners affected are often severely injured and are kept out of the work process for a very long time. If negligence is determined, then the company is also threatened by claims for damages, compensation, or legal consequences.
- Responsibility of employers
A comprehensive safety concept provides complete legal security. In the end, employers are responsible for the safety of their employees and may be liable in the event of an accident.
- Satisfied workers are loyal workers
If the working conditions are right – and that clearly also includes safety – then the employees are satisfied as well. And satisfaction strengthens the employees’ relationship with their employer. The customers sense that too!
An accident victim describes the consequences of his fall
Every year there are more than 340 million industrial accidents worldwide. In Germany in 2020 rather more than 13,000 serious industrial accidents resulting in payment of benefit were reported; around 400 of these ended fatally.
The situation is similar in Austria, where in 2020 around 13,500 people were injured in the course of fall accidents. However, these are only statistics. Pirmin Heer, manager of the caretaking team of the Eschenbach school in Switzerland, relates how he experienced his fall.
From real life – an accident report from Pirmin Heer
“I only know about the course of events from what I’ve been told. I don’t remember anything myself. I don’t even know why I was at the window or what I was doing there”. But the fact is: I fell from a height of 3.5 metres,” explains Pirmin Heer, who suffered severe injuries from falling onto the loose gravel surface.
In addition to a fractured skull, he had a gaping cut on his head, as well as broken ribs, a broken wrist, and a completely shattered knee. “All the same, I must say: a whole host of guardian angels must have been looking after me!
Only half a metre away there was a much larger rock. If I’d hit my head against that … who knows how the fall would have turned out?” It took a whole year before he was fully recovered.
After his accident, Pirmin Heer immediately decided to test the MFS window fall protection system from INNOTECH. “It convinced me immediately. The MFS delivers what it promises. You immediately feel much more at ease”, reports Pirmin Heer.
“My whole team likes using the window railings and now also feels really safe. I receive only positive feedback from my people. And apart from that, everything now complies with the Swiss National Accident Insurance Fund (SUVA) rules and regulations.”
What is it that makes a window fall protection system SAFE?
It’s basically very simple: “A professional window fall protection system is safe only when it complies with all standards”, emphasises Manuel Weber, product manager at INNOTECH.
The MFS manufactured by his employer is tested (by DEKRA Testing and Certification GmbH) much more thoroughly than the standard requires.
Purchasers of a window fall protection system should in any case pay attention to the marking of the system, because it is safe only if it complies with the legal standards. For example, the MFS from INNOTECH is certified to DIN EN 13374:2019 and labelled accordingly.
Correct use of the fall protection system
Obviously, the window fall protection system must always be used correctly for it to provide its protection function in full. Therefore: Read the instruction manual in full.
In addition the full cleaning team needs to be thoroughly trained. As well as this, the window fall protection system must also be inspected regularly for defects such as loose threaded joints, deformation, wear, or corrosion.
Safety thanks to simple handling
The practicability and usability of the fall protection system is a significant safety factor. Very complex and bulky systems are often not even used, because their handling is too complicated; the inventor never thought about that! The MFS from INNOTECH has proven itself in practice, precisely because of its simple and rapid installation and its transportability.
Increased safety through good training
Employee training definitely has a number of benefits for employees and also for companies. It creates increased loyalty from the team, and therefore also results in a positive image of the company as a good employer.
But the most important thing is: It helps to create internal processes and workflows which are significantly more efficient, and this also has a positive effect on the quality of the products or services.
Furthermore, maintenance and cleaning employees who are correctly trained in the window fall protection system act with much more routine, and this also reduces the risk of falling.
And so for window cleaning the following principle must always apply: Only well-trained employees are well protected employees!
Training on the MFS
Because all components of the systems are identified appropriately, training on the MFS is in principle not required. However it is nevertheless recommended, particularly because it requires almost no time or expense.
Training is always provided directly by internal professionals. New team members should also be trained, in order to forestall the transmission of second hand knowledge by colleagues.
The cleaners themselves also bear a certain level of responsibility.
If they feel – for any reason whatsoever – that they are not in a position to perform tasks subject to particular dangers, then on that specific day they should ask colleagues to take over the window cleaning.
Fall protection systems which leave no visible traces ...
It is also obvious that the window fall protection system should impair neither the architectural aesthetics of the building nor get in the way of the company’s other employees.
Here we contrast two current mobile solutions: The door traverse with safety solution on the window, and the MFS Modular Fall Prevention System for Windows.
The door traverse as a window fall protection system
The door traverse is clamped in a load-bearing door frame close to the window to be cleaned. Here the retention device sometimes runs right across the room. However, this can seriously disturb the office working day.
The Modular Fall Prevention System for Windows
The MFS is installed directly in the respective window frame and, thanks to its slender and modular structure, it allows the user the greatest possible freedom of movement, together with maximum safety.
The benefits of this system:
- No impairment of the office working day: The anchor point is located directly in the window frame. Other work taking place in the affected room is therefore not impeded.
- High-quality materials and aesthetics: The MFS is made of light aluminium, and is state of the art.
- No training required: While use of PPE requires thorough training, this is unnecessary for the MFS, although initial training is advisable.