Although OSHA requires that all high rise cleaners are trained, there is no specific training that they recommend or require. There is no mandatory rule saying that high rise window cleaners have to be trained in rope access, though, most people in the rope access industry see the benefits and say that training comes highly recommended. So what are some of the benefits of getting trained, and is it worth it, both in the financial investment and the skills gained?
This question of “is it worth it to get training” has been on our minds since we first began selling high-rise window equipment years ago. The answer for us has always been yes, especially once we started to obsess over HR window cleaning and gained experience with the technical equipment needed on the job. The more we’ve learned over the years, the clearer the answer has become for us. We even questioned how people in the high-rise window cleaning industry could manage not to get trained! However, we know that it takes resources and time to get trained, after all, if it’s not required to get a specific type of training, why would you pay the money and make yourself go? But with the recent number of high-rise accidents and OSHA’s new Walking/Working Surface rulings, it seemed like a good time to ask some hard questions. We’ve decided not to tell you why you should get trained in rope access (SPRAT), but rather, we’d like to show you.
This is the story of Todd Foor, the guy above in the pictures. Todd is a window cleaner in Arizona with the AZ Squeegee Squad. Todd is a high-rise (as well as traditional) window cleaner. Todd is also a sport rock climber with more than ten years under his belt. So why did Todd, after many years of climbing for fun, decide to get trained in Rope Access to use in high-rise window cleaning?
We went ahead and asked him.
Q: How long have you been a window cleaner for?
A: (I’ve) been cleaning windows since 1988/89. (I) went into the army for a while, got out (and) went right back (to window cleaning), never did anything else… I was 19 and I am 47 now.
Q: And how long have you been sport climbing?
A: (My) first climb was Bastille in Eldo(rado, CO) in 1993. (Then) I started climbing sport routes with my mentor Darren Mabe (from Squeegee Squad Flagstaff, AZ) in 1998/1999. Now I primarily climb with my wife Sarah and daughters Alex and Justy.
Q: So why did you decide to get some rope access training through SPRAT?
A: The training is not mandatory yet, but is a great selling point and a way to keep people working for me safe now that I have employees. Soon it will be mandatory and I hope to be ready.
Q: How much did it cost?
A: It was very affordable- less than 2k.
Q: Did you have to take time off from work?
A: Yes I did, (that was) the hardest part for me.
Q: How long did the training take?
A: One intense week.
Q: What was the first step you took to get started with your training?
A: (The training was called) SPRAT level 1 at Abseilon USA with Ken Piposar. It’s a school here in Phoenix, AZ. Searched around in ’06 then bumped into Ken and spent three years chatting and discussing our visions. He has been very informative and supportive for me to (make the) transition into a company that is SPRAT operational.
Q: What was the training itself like?
A: There were a few days in a classroom setting and then to the rope course area. (We) spent the rest of time training on tasks until independent evaluations on Friday.
Q: Were there other professions there or only window cleaners?
A: Yes, (there were some) tower climbers and some wind energy guys. Ken has trained a lot of trades. Even pest control teams.
Q: What is the best thing you learned in training?
A: The butterfly knot and Petzl seat.
Q: How would you say climbing has helped you become a force to be reckoned with in the window cleaning industry?
A: I think climbing and window cleaning have the same kind of challenges. They enhance each other and keep you very fit.
Q: And of course, last question, was it worth it?
A: It was worth it because at this time I assume the training is cheaper than it will ever be. As soon as it’s mandatory, the price will increase. I paid $1,300.00 to achieve level 1 (SPRAT). Then about $2-2,500.00 in new gear. Very affordable in my opinion.
Being safe always costs more. That’s why no one wants to do it. The market has not caught up with the need.
I will continue to spend on level 2,3 when I am qualified.
Todd is a shining example of the good training does, and how a little humility from a top-notch climber can give you the information and training on safety techniques, and even an edge in the high rise window cleaning market.
Of course, to counter that, we can come up with a dozen reasons preventing even the best-intentioned high-rise cleaner from getting rope access training. So, let’s talk.
We have to admit that this post has some ulterior motives. We absolutely think you should get training when you decide to add high-rise to your cleaning portfolio. It’s not because we get some sort kickback or want you to buy the gear from us, it’s because we see a lot that happens in the industry, and we see way too many accidents (any accident that happens is one too many, but we see way more than just one). So instead of condemning those who are not trained, let us say the first step to getting the ball rolling is considering training (like Todd did in 2006).
It’s also worth noting that there are other training options out there. SPRAT is fantastic and about as in-depth training as you can get, but it’s not currently required, and some might consider a full week of intensive rope access overkill. Every window cleaner should consider going through the IWCA safety course (find out more info and their current schedule here). Also, consider taking your OSHA 10 hour. A quick web search will reveal dozens of places that you can do it in person or online.
If you choose to do SPRAT, which we think is an excellent idea, there are lots of great companies that you can use.
Thanks, Todd, we know you’re the man, and now everyone else gets a little taste of your awesomeness too. If you’re in AZ, you should talk to this man. He’s a veteran (in both military service and the window cleaning industry), and a badass in his own right. Az Squeegee Squad, look him up.