Proposed Safety Standards Unsafe for Window Cleaners
Testifying at an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hearing on window cleaners' safety, 32BJ SEIU sounded an alarm over the possible easing of safety standards in the window cleaning industry, according to a press release.
"Forcing window cleaners to rely on a dangerous system that has been banned in most of the industrialized world could have tragic consequences," said Hector Figueroa, Secretary Treasurer of 32BJ. The union runs the only government-approved window cleaning apprenticeship and training program in the country. "Consideration of such a reckless measure runs counter to OSHA's mission of setting and maintaining the highest possible safety standards."
The controversial measure, which is opposed by many in the industry, would open the door for unrestricted use of the risky Rope Descent Systems (RDS) – a window cleaning method banned in New York State and California. Because workers are hanging by a rope hundreds of feet above the ground with RDS, safety experts consider this method to be significantly more dangerous than scaffolding which is generally used on New York's skyscrapers.
In a letter to OSHA on the proposed provision (1910.27), Allen Kanarek, Swingstage Division Vice President of Tractel Inc. – a safety equipment company –said, "economics should not be a justification for reducing safety."
"RDS gives no assurance to workers that their lives are being protected," said Jesus Rosario, a window cleaner from New York who has been working for 10 years in buildings throughout the Big Apple. "When you are suspended hundreds of feet in the air, the wind is your worst enemy and you need to feel safe and secure."
With more than 120,000 members in eight states and Washington D.C., 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.
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