Safety Standards for Window Cleaning

Chapter 296-878, WAC

Effective Date: 01/01/03

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WAC 296-878-200

Rope descent systems

For printing

WAC 296-878-20005

Select appropriate rope descent systems.

You must

  • Make sure the rope descent system is designed, used, and maintained according to:
    • - ANSI/IWCA 1-14.1-2001
    • - The manufacturer's instructions.
  • Make sure the rope descent system has been manufactured and is intended to be used for window cleaning.



Equipment that is designed or labeled for recreational use or rescue use only is prohibited for use in window-cleaning operations.

You must

  • Make sure the rope descent system components are compatible and have a minimum tensile strength of 5 thousand pounds.
    • - This doesn't apply to the seatboard.
  • Make sure the rope descent system has specific use instructions for each component.

WAC 296-878-20010

Safely use rope descent systems.

You must

(1) Make sure workers use extreme care when using rope descent equipment around electrical service, heat sources, and turbulent areas, such as air vents.

(2) Connect the seatboard or boatswain's chair to the descent device with a manual or auto locking carabiner.

(3) Make sure workers are positioned in the seatboard or boatswain's chair before being suspended.

(4) Make sure workers don't reach more than 6 feet in any direction as measured from a centerline straight down from where the suspension rope bears on the building.

(5) Make sure workers do not descend rapidly, swing excessively, or stop suddenly.

(6) Make sure that, in addition to the suspended worker, there is one other person at the jobsite who is skilled in using the rope descent system and rescue procedures.

(7) Make sure you don't exceed a 300-foot height of descent as measured from grade or building setback unless the windows cannot be safely and practicably accessed by other means.

(8) Make sure your site-specific service plan addresses the following hazards for descents over 130 feet as measured from grade or building setback:

  • Sudden weather changes, such as wind gusts, micro bursts, or tunneling wind currents
  • Inability of the rope descent system to function without using excessive force
  • Workers suspended for long periods of time
  • Rerigging and movement of main suspension and safety lines.

(9) Stabilize workers suspended from a rope descent system whenever the descent is higher than 130 feet, as measured from grade or building setback.

(10) Prohibit workers from working when wind speed makes any stabilization equipment ineffective.



Provisions for stabilizing workers may include:

  • Continuous stabilization, such as mullion tracks
  • Intermittent stabilization, such as detent pins/buttons
  • Work station stabilization, such as suction cups.

WAC 296-878-20015

Safely use rope descent devices.

(1) Make sure the rated capacity or the maximum intended load, whichever is less, isn't exceeded.

(2) Make sure the descent device manufacturer's specifications for rope diameter and construction are followed.

(3) Make sure the rope is rigged through the descent device for a controlled rate of descent.

(4) Make sure the attachment point on the descent device is 1 piece with no gates or openings.

(5) Make sure the descent device will remain stationary when positive action is taken.


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