On August 6th two window washers, who were also brothers, fell and died while working at the World Financial Center. They were standing in a self-propelled articulated boom which is similar to a cherry picker planted on the sidewalk. It tipped-over and threw the men to their death. See the news story here.
I was interviewed and quoted by the Associated Press regarding this story and New York’s special protections for window washers. See the AP story here.
New York has the strictest rules and regulations regarding window washers. Also, the union’s apprentice program and other union rules help make window washers safer in New York than elsewhere. For example, the major commercial office towers, such as the Empire State Building, only employ unionized window washers. The man who runs the union’s safety training program says that “safety is our number one topic” because “window cleaners do not get a second chance.” Union rules provide that a window washer can refuse to work, without penalty, if the conditions are unsafe.
The New York record has been good. Unfortunately, within less than a year there has been this incident and the death in the December, 2007, fall of another team of brother window washers from 47 stories. Miraculously, one brother survived and is now recovering. There is no question that window is a dangerous endeavor.
We also attribute New York’s better safety record to the special legal protections afforded to window washers under the Labor Law 202. In essence, in the event of an accident the window washer can prove a case of strict liability if the safety equipment is defective.
We feel that this statute provides a great financial incentive to make window washing as safe as possible. This law keeps building owners and window washing companies honest and safe. See our prior post, “Protecting Window Washers”, here.
If you have any questions about a window washer accident, please feel free to call us at 800-244-9313.
Mark E. Seiteman, 8/8/08, www.seitelman.com.