Owning a window cleaning business means you and your employees are going to be spending a lot of time high off the ground which, as you’d expect, comes with its fair share of risks. If you’re an employer, it’s your legal responsibility to determine the main hazards that could potentially cause harm to you, your employees and others, and identify how you’ll minimise these risks.
As a professional window cleaner, you should conduct a risk assessment every time you work at a new location and record your findings. But how do you go about completing one?
No matter what your business is, there tend to be five steps to completing a risk assessment. Here’s how those steps would apply to your window cleaning business.
1. Identify all potential hazards
Even though they might seem like they mean the same thing, identifying the difference between a hazard and a risk is crucial in this context. A hazard is something that could potentially cause someone harm, such as working at height or window cleaning chemicals, and the risk is the likelihood of someone being harmed by the hazard.
Therefore, the first step to completing a risk assessment is identifying what these hazards in your working environment are. Once you’ve identified them, make a list of them all – however minor they might seem. Here are some hazards to look out for in a window cleaning situation:
- Surfaces – Check the surface you’ll be working on for anything that could cause injury. For example, if you’re working on outside windows, check the pavement for uneven surfaces that an employee could trip on as they’re working.
- Chemicals – Window cleaners may be exposed to a variety of chemicals in the cleaning products they use.
- Falls from heights – Be aware of working at heights of three and a half feet and above for obvious reasons!
- Electrical – Look out for exposed electrical outlets and fixtures as well as powerlines where you’re going to be working.
2. Decide who’s at risk of being harmed
Once you’ve recorded the hazards in your working area, you need to work out who’s most at risk of being harmed as a result of each individual hazard. Whether it’s you, your employees, other people visiting or working at the site or the public, your risk assessment needs to include who could be at risk and why they’re at risk.
3. Evaluate the risks and take action
This is definitely the most crucial step of a risk assessment. Only taking note of the hazards won’t do anything to protect people in your working environment – you need to take precautions to minimise the risk of someone injuring themselves. Anything you have noted down as a hazard needs to be acted upon before you even think about cleaning any windows!
So, for example, if you’re working with cleaning products that contain chemicals, you must ensure anyone using them follows the manufacturer’s advice and wears the necessary personal protective equipment.
Or if you’ve identified a fall hazard – a surface of three and a half feet or more without any edge protection - fall protection will be required. This usually comes in the form of a guardrail or parapet that’ll prevent your employee from falling.
Taking action on a hazard could even be as simple as making sure your cleaning equipment isn’t left out for somebody to trip on. Although this might seem like common sense, you’d be amazed at the number of window cleaners that find themselves on the receiving end of claims because they didn’t take preventative action.
4. Record your findings
If you have five employees or more, it’s your legal responsibility to record the significant findings of your risk assessment. Even if you’re a sole trader or have less than five employees, it’s still a good idea to do this, so you can review it at a later date if you find yourself working at the same location again.
5. Review the risk assessment and update if necessary
As a window cleaning business, you’ll likely be working at different locations quite frequently, so be sure to complete a risk assessment every time you’re cleaning windows at a new site.
Even if you’re returning to a building you’ve completed a risk assessment at before, have a scout for any new hazards that may have appeared and update your risk assessment to reflect this. You should also update the assessment if you make any changes to the cleaning products you use.
Carrying out a risk assessment is a great way to reduce the risk of something going wrong for your window cleaning business. Of course, accidents can still happen so be sure to check out our Window Cleaners Insurance.