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Two window washers fall 90 feet when their horizontal static line failed.

Massachusetts Department of Health
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 03MA010, 2006 Feb; :1-7
On May 15, 2003, two male window washers (the victims), ages 20 and 47, were fatally injured when they fell approximately 90 feet. At the time of the incident, the victims were using rope descent systems with seat boards to wash windows of an eight-story building. Both victims' descent control devices and personal fall arrest systems were attached to a single horizontal wire rope static line that was improperly secured prior to the incident. The victims fell when the static line failed. The victims landed on the cement courtyard below. The courtyard was crowded with pedestrians and construction workers who witnessed the incident. Multiple 911 calls were placed by witnesses via cell phones. A doctor from a neighboring building noticed that people were in need of assistance and rushed out of her office to help the victims. Within minutes Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel arrived and transported the victims to a local hospital where both were pronounced dead. The Massachusetts FACE Program concluded that to prevent similar occurrences in the future, employers should: 1. Ensure that anchor points for personal fall protection equipment are completely independent from the descent control devices. 2. Ensure a competent person inspects and evaluates all anchor points and rigging before descents. 3. Provide training to employees in the proper use of approved descent control devices and appropriate support system and evaluate employees' knowledge of this training. Commercial building owners should: 4. Consult with certified professional engineers to retrofit older buildings with permanent anchor points or ensure that existing anchor points are capable of withstanding intended loads for window washing operations. In addition, employers and commercial building owners should: 5. Develop and enforce a plan of service that addresses the availability of a competent person, safety training, and standard operating procedures specifically for window washing operations.
Region-1; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Protective-measures; Training; Window-cleaning; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-equipment; Safety-personnel; Safety-programs
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-03MA010; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-108704
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Massachusetts Department of Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division