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April 13, 2023

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Window cleaners urged to look clearly at safety

Window cleaners are being urged to ‘Look Up Look Out’ to keep themselves safe, especially when using water-fed poles near electricity overhead lines, says UK Power Networks. SHP hears more from the electricity provider on electrical safety…

As spring begins UK Power Networks, which delivers electricity across London the East and South East, is reminding window cleaners that every year people are killed or seriously injured when they come into contact with high voltage electricity.

In 2021 a window cleaner was killed when his 9.2metre telescopic carbon pole came in contact with an overhead cable that was behind him at the end of the garden.

Your life can be lost within seconds if you come into contact with electricity. This can have a far-reaching and devastating effect on family, friends and colleagues. Distractions, working long hours, rushing to get the job done, can all impact on how we work and our safety.

Safety cannot take a back seat to getting the job done quickly, it is important to keep safety as the main focus when using equipment on a job. If safety is not prioritised and guidelines are not followed, it can result in contact with overhead lines and a serious injury or death. Last year there were 123 incidents involving overhead lines.

Watch our upcoming webinar: ‘The revocation of the Working At Height Regulations – Why they need to stay’, for tips on regulation and guidance on Wednesday 19 April at 11:00. Click here to register!

Nathan Hughes, SHE Education and Engagement Advisor at UK Power Networks, said: “An overhead line does not have to be touched to cause serious injury or death as electricity can jump, or arc, across small gaps.  It is easy to forget that even getting too close to an overhead line can result in a flashover.”

PPE ‘not enough’

“Window cleaners should always look up and look out for the presence of overhead lines around them first as contact can be fatal or cause life changing injuries. Remember the extended pole can reach a long way above, behind and beside you.  Make sure that all employees know how to handle and assemble equipment correctly and safely, from ladders to water fed poles.  Correct handling, minimising distractions and taking electricity seriously is vital to working safely and avoiding incidents.”

Relying solely on Personal Protective Equipment is not enough, the right safety mindset needs to be in place as well as gloves and rubber boots

Andrew Lee chairman and safety officer for the Federation of Window Cleaners said: ”We are always keen to support initiatives like this to improve health and safety within our industry. Preventing accidents and keeping our members safe is one of our main priorities.”

We would always encourage our members and all window cleaners to “look up and look out” for overhead electrical cables when using waterfed poles, telescopic poles and indeed portable ladders, even if you are using the latest “insulated” poles there is still a real risk of serious injury and even death if you contact or go near overhead electrical cables.”

Remember to:

  • Make sure all employees on site can identify where the overhead power lines are and that they fully understand the risks and the appropriate emergency procedure.
  • Is your water fed pole in danger of touching or getting too close to overhead lines – keep observing as you proceed with your work? Look all around you
  • Be aware of any obstacles that may present trip hazards such as plant pots, uneven floor levels, varying levels of ground, kerbs etc, that are located in the work area.

More information on overhead powerlines can be found on the HSE website.

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