Skyscraper window cleaning is a strenuous, highly-dangerous service that sometimes even the best safety measures can not protect if things go wrong. There are several hazards to be wary of, many of which have been highlighted in the press in recent years.

According to SHP, between two and seven window cleaners are killed every year with an additional 20 to 30 suffering major injuries as a result of falls from ladders – which is sadly one too many.

In this article, we will examine some of the hazards associated with skyscraper window cleaning and highlight some notable accidents that have occurred in the past.

Hazards of skyscraper window cleaning

Working at great heights poses numerous dangers, and skyscraper window cleaning is no exception. Some of the hazards of this profession include:

Falling objects

When window cleaners are working at great heights, tools, equipment, or cleaning solutions can slip out of their hands and fall to the ground, posing a risk to people below. It’s crucial to keep all tools and objects safely in place, away from the risk of falling from height.

Weather conditions

Skyscraper window cleaners must work in all types of weather conditions, including strong winds, heavy rain, and snow. These conditions can make it difficult to maintain balance and increase the risk of slipping or falling.

Equipment malfunction

Window cleaning equipment such as scaffolding, ropes, and harnesses can malfunction, leading to accidents and dangerous falls from height. Regular maintenance checks are a must to ensure all equipment is working to the highest standards.

Electrical hazards

Skyscraper window cleaning often involves working near power lines, which can pose an electrical hazard if not handled correctly. Safety checks and contingency plans must be put in place to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.


Skyscraper window cleaning is a physically demanding job that requires concentration and focus. Fatigued workers are more likely to make mistakes and increase the risk of accidents.

Notable skyscraper window cleaning accidents

Despite safety measures and precautions, accidents can still happen in the profession of skyscraper window cleaning. Here are some notable incidents that have occurred in the past:

  • The Empire State Building Incident: In 1932, during the construction of the Empire State Building, several workers were killed when a scaffolding platform collapsed. This incident led to new safety regulations for skyscraper construction and window cleaning.
  • The Petronas Towers Incident: In 1998, a window cleaner fell to his death while working on the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The incident was attributed to a faulty safety harness.
  • The John Hancock Center Incident: In 2002, a window washer was left hanging by his safety harness after it failed while he was working on the John Hancock Center in Chicago. The worker was rescued, but the incident highlighted the importance of regular safety inspections.
  • The Shanghai Tower Incident: In 2018, a window cleaner was killed when he fell from the 68th floor of the Shanghai Tower in China. The cause of the incident was not immediately clear, but it highlighted the need for continuous safety training and precautions.

There have also been several notable window cleaning accidents in the UK over the years:

  • The Strata SE1 Incident: In 2012, two window cleaners were left dangling in mid-air after their platform became stuck at a 45-degree angle on the side of the Strata SE1 building in London. Firefighters were called to rescue the workers, who were unharmed.
  • The Shard Incident: In 2017, a window cleaner working on the outside of the Shard skyscraper in London fell several feet after his harness failed. He was left dangling by a rope and was eventually rescued by firefighters. The worker suffered minor injuries.
  • The Manchester Arndale Incident: In 2019, a window cleaner fell from a height of around 25 feet while working on the Manchester Arndale shopping centre. The worker suffered multiple injuries, including broken bones and internal bleeding.
  • The Bullring Incident: In 2016, a window cleaner fell from a height of around 30 feet while working on the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham. The worker suffered serious head injuries and was taken to hospital.

These incidents highlight the risks associated with window cleaning at great heights and the importance of proper safety measures and precautions. It is essential that workers in this profession receive adequate training, use appropriate equipment, and follow strict safety protocols to prevent accidents and ensure their own safety.

Safety measures at Aquamark

Skyscraper window cleaning is a vital job that ensures the safety and cleanliness of high-rise buildings. However, it is also a high-risk profession that poses numerous hazards to workers.

Accidents can happen, and it is essential to prioritise safety measures and precautions to prevent them from occurring.

Through regular safety inspections, training, and proper equipment, workers can perform their duties safely and efficiently, reducing the risk of accidents and ensuring the safety of everyone involved. Get in touch with Aquamark today to discover more.