Unions protect window cleaners from falls

Window cleaners will not be put at a higher risk of deadly falls after trade unions convinced manufacturers against lowering the safety standards for ladders.

Unions protect window cleaners from falls

Falls are the second top cause of fatal accidents at work in the European Union, with more than 3,400 people losing their lives since Eurostat records began in 2014.

And around half of all workplace injuries caused by falls involve ladders, according to an analysis of accidents in Germany.

Despite that, manufacturers wanted to set a new European standard for ladders used by window cleaners which would have lower safety requirements.

Higher Risk

Leaning ladders used by window cleaners often are supported by a ladder foot to increase stability.

Manufacturers, who dominate the committee for standardisation on this issue (CEN/TC 93), wanted to decrease the width of the ladder foot.

That would make ladders more unstable and increase the risk of accidents, an expert study of the proposal for the ETUC found.

Following consideration of these findings, as well as a targeted awareness-raising campaign by the ETUC and UNI Europa, the European trade union federation for cleaners, the members of CEN/TC 93 decided to withdraw the proposal.

It means window cleaners will continue to benefit from the current and stronger safety standards for all ladders as foreseen in EN 131-2 ‘Ladders – Part 2: Requirements, testing, marking’.

The work is part of the ETUC’s ‘Zero Death’ campaign to eradicate accidents at work in Europe by 2030.

ETUC Confederal Secretary Isabelle Schömann said:

“With hundreds of people losing their lives each year at work due to falls, any attempt to lower safety standards for ladders is clearly irresponsible.

“Window cleaners do dangerous work and it’s important they have the highest standards of safety.

“People go to work to earn a living for themselves and their family – no one should leave home worried that they won’t come back.”

UNI Europa Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig said:

“This case shows how a strong union voice at the table puts workers’ safety first.

Many of the standards set at European level have profound impacts on working people’s lives.

To ensure those impacts are positive, national and European standardisation bodies ought to consult and include unions from the very beginning rather than propose standards which undermine workers’ safety.”


Study on the safety of loft ladders and ladder foots

Eurostat statistics on workplace accidents  
Manifesto “Zero Death At Work”

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