When you first consider starting or owning your own business, it’s hard to imagine all the different ways that opportunity can present itself. Window cleaning is a business that has both conventional and unconventional paths. In the example of high rise window cleaning, it can be said that this skill is both unique and brings about great opportunity. In this blog, we talk to Jimmy Keithley, a high rise cleaner, about how he’s pursued his business and career goals.
This is the first installment in a High Rise Window Cleaning Series focused on training and career development.
Jimmy Keithley, owner of Outlook Window Cleaning in Midvale Utah, is an avid climber. He has been sport climbing since the mid-90s, around the same time he started window cleaning. His first experience of professional training was from the company that employed him. Jimmy and his co-workers decided to get extra training because of the substantial risk involved with high rise window cleaning. They took a class at Hanson Mountaineering, a non-window cleaning oriented training path that allowed them to learn rope access, self rescues, and other rope techniques, information not always included in window cleaning oriented high rise training. Jimmy is not only still sport climbing and using his skills as a high rise window cleaner, but he also owns his business and has made valuable relationships with climbing companies such as Petzl to help him continue to further his career.
Jimmy continues to pursue high rise training today, roughly twenty years after he started window cleaning. This August, Jimmy has elected to begin SPRAT training. SPRAT, which stands for Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians, is a “member-driven organization that advances the safe use of rope access through education, standards development, and certification…” SPRAT is recognized in North America as the standard in rope access certification. It is an intensive course that gives you the skills needed for high rise window cleaning, as well as additional qualifications for industries such as wind energy. For many window cleaners, SPRAT training is overkill since it covers techniques beyond Rope Descent, and it costs both time (one-week hands-on class) and money (equipment and cost of the course).
So why would Jimmy decide to pursue it?
“Working at height is getting more complicated as building design evolves. Job sites are asking for proof of training, and all I have is my record of years of safe work. That just is not cutting it anymore. Setting a better safety standard in the industry will benefit all who work at height in the long run. Hopefully, this can change the culture of our industry. Working at height when cleaning windows should be a trade that is valued and given its due respect and compensation. The industry has catered to properties going for the lowest bid and just getting the job done by any means necessary. That needs to change! I feel it should start with me raising my game. SPRAT certification maybe a start in the right direction. A direction where high rise window cleaners are not just viewed as glorified janitors. It can be a trade esteemed and respected for its safety protocol rather than its danger.”
Besides his window cleaning business, Jimmy is actively involved in the Salt Lake Climbing Alliance and their mission to be “Utah’s leading voice for climbing access and stewardship: uniting, educating, and inspiring climbers of all disciplines to serve their local climbing community since 2002.” At height work has not only improved Jimmy’s professional life and allowed him to aspire and meet new goals, but it’s integral to who Jimmy is as a person.
Check out Jimmy on Instagram here.