Although accidents rarely affect professional cleaning staff, safety incidents can be catastrophic for window washers. Pedestrians are also at risk for debilitating injury if a person or equipment falls from above.

If you or a loved one works in this industry, understand the potential risks and take steps to prevent an accident.

Check and check again

Never ascend the building without checking and double-checking safety clips, harnesses and straps. If you have a concern about a specific piece of safety equipment, do not use it. You must also check straps to secure tools and supplies while you work. If these items fall from the scaffolding, they can seriously injure passing pedestrians.

Seek safety certification

The International Window Cleaners Association offers a safety certification program for window cleaners. In partnership with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Workplace Administration, this professional organization provides training, best practices instruction and guidelines for those in this industry.

Prevent heat illness

The dizziness and weakness that result from heat illness can lead to a dangerous fall. Be aware of the signs of heat illness, which include headache, heavy sweating, nausea and confusion. When the temperature rises, take frequent breaks in the shade or air conditioning while working in the sun.

Understand liability

When an accident occurs, an employer may be responsible if he or she did not follow OSHA guidelines or state or municipal laws. These regulations cover safety equipment, scaffolding, harnesses, gear, storage and working conditions. The court will carefully investigate the circumstances of the accident to determine legal responsibility. In some cases, criminal charges may even apply.

Whether you or your family member experienced injury as a window washer, you may have legal recourse. In New York, the injured person must file a personal injury lawsuit within three years of the incident. In the case of wrongful death, the deceased person’s family has two years to file a legal claim. Other deadlines may apply if you plan to file a suit against a government agency.