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Jan. 30, 2012

New Minnesota OSHA standard for window-washing takes effect March 1

A new safety standard for window-washers takes effect March 1, 2012.

The new Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MNOSHA) standard is designed to increase worker protection and provide clarity for contractors that perform interior or exterior window-washing or building-maintenance operations. It applies to workers that are suspended more than 14 feet above grade. The standard does not apply to operations that are performed from grade level or from a ladder.

The standard's requirements are designed to address serious workplace hazards observed by MNOSHA during past compliance inspections. During 2009 to 2011, three Minnesota workers died on the job while washing windows.

The standard requires employers to have a comprehensive written safety plan and provide employee training for window-washing and building-maintenance activities. It also addresses and outlines worker safety requirements in the areas of:

  • anchors and anchor points;
  • appropriate recordkeeping regarding employee training and retraining;
  • fall protection;
  • proper care, use and inspection of equipment;
  • rope descent systems; and
  • visual inspections of building exteriors before work begins.

"This new standard ensures a plan is in place to reduce risks to workers and that systems are in place to identify and control workplace hazards," said Commissioner Ken Peterson, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI). "The goal is to prevent accidents."

MNOSHA began a local emphasis inspection program for the window-washing and building-maintenance industry in October 2010. Since then, MNOSHA has conducted 34 window-washing inspections:  one was a complaint, one was a fatality and 32 were part of the emphasis program, where investigators may stop and conduct an inspection when they observe window-washing activity.

During these inspections, MNOSHA investigators found some worksites lacked proper safety equipment for employees cleaning windows. Also, not all employers were complying with existing MNOSHA safety standards or following the manufacturer's guidelines about how to safely use suspension scaffolds and lifelines.

Employers can get information about the new standard via the DLI website at www.dli.mn.gov/MnOsha.asp (click on the "Standards" tab) or by calling MNOSHA Compliance at (651) 284-5050.

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News media contact:
James Honerman
(651) 284-5313

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