"A hundred people and four deaths in four years -- it is an insane number," said Javier Morillo-Alicea, President of SEIU Local 26. "If you applied that to any other industry it would be a scandal." Minnesota OSHA increased the number of inspections on Oct. 1, 2010 due to the deaths. The checks have turned up potentially deadly hazards including:
Tie backs not being securely fastened to outrigger beams
Inadequate anchorage systems
Counterweights not of sufficeient weight
Washer not protected by a safety belt.
Window Washer Safety Culture in Twin Cities
According to the International Window Cleaning Association, Minnesota has had the highest rate of window washing accidents in the United States since 2007.
This fall, the IWCA came to the Twin Cities, hoping to educate fellow washers on safety issues -- but the safety conference was poorly attended. The FOX 9 Investigators called several of the companies that didn't show up. They said they either didn't know about it or were too busy to attend.
When asked about training, several window washers told the FOX 9 Investigators they were either trained for only a short amount of time or just had on-the-job training when they began their careers.
Going Over the Wall
FOX 9 Investigator, Trish Van Pilsum wanted to draw attention to the issue of safety, so she found out what it is like to go over the wall -- the parapet wall that is.
Jeff Scott, owner of Green Window Cleaning in Madison, Wis., agreed to help Trish experience what window washers go through on a daily basis. He did not train her as he would the cleaners that work for him because that would have taken months of lessons and testing. Instead, he prepared her to repel down the side of a 15-story building in Madison with no cleaning duties. No safety measure was spared. She used a bosun's chair, work line and safety line.