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Industry body warns of ‘grave risks’ to window cleaners

Window cleaners face ‘grave risks’ when using water-fed poles near overhead power lines, warns industry body

Following the deaths or injury of a number of window cleaners from electrocution while using water-fed poles, the Federation of Window Cleaners (FWC) has called a crucial meeting with key industry bodies and manufacturers with the aim of agreeing improved and robust safety measures.

In 2021 alone, two lives were lost when water-fed poles inadvertently made contact with live wires, resulting in fatal electrocutions. In a third, recent incident, a former FWC member was electrocuted and seriously injured while using a water-fed pole near an overhead power cable.

The FWC has taken a proactive stance by convening a meeting with extension pole manufacturers, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Electric Networks Association (ENA) and industry leaders on 22 May to address this pressing issue. The FWC would also like to encourage any other interested parties to get in touch if they wish to participate in this ongoing initiative.

Power lines are often uninsulated and can carry up to 400,000 volts. Live equipment can be mounted on poles as low as 4.3m. An overhead line does not need to be touched to cause serious injury or death, as electricity can arc across small gaps, resulting in deadly flashovers.

Water-fed poles can reach as far as 20m or more. Some water-fed poles available are tested and insulated against electrical hazards, however some are not. Gloves or rubber boots cannot reliably protect against electrocution, especially when wet or dirty.

In recent years, the UK Power Networks, the HSE, the FWC and others have worked to educate and inform window cleaners of the dangers and the steps they can take to work safely but the FWC believes more should be done.

Steve Kennedy, Vice Chairman, Federation of Window Cleaners (FWC), said: “Every year, tragic incidents underscore the grave risks faced by window cleaners working near overhead power lines. These sobering events highlight the urgent need for collaborative action to enhance safety protocols in the window cleaning industry.

“The May meeting will explore innovative solutions to mitigate the risk of electrocutions associated with extension pole use near power lines. By fostering collaboration and sharing expertise, the goal is to establish robust safety measures that safeguard the lives of window cleaners and all workers operating in proximity to overhead wires.

“This pivotal meeting not only marks a critical step forward in prioritising safety but also sets the stage for ongoing efforts to revolutionise safety practices in the industry.”

Please contact FWC General Secretary Beryl Murray on 0161 432 8754 or email if you are interested in attending the 22 May meeting.

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