Cleaning up with Water Fed Poles by Martin Warman

With current Health & Safety regulations getting tougher, coupled with the ever-increasing cost of Insurance, more, and more window cleaners are turning to water fed poles. (WFP)

At first sight they appear to answer everybody’s problems, but it is not uncommon to face some problems and frustration during the initial stages of use. The pole is not a magic wand there is a learning curve to get decent results.

Since our switching over to the system at the turn of the Century the industry has grown from a few suppliers to, well, quite a few suppliers. As with choosing any unknown, it is always advisable talk to satisfied customers, (window cleaners) and get recommendations. See the systems in action. Doing your homework, will pay off in the long run. Many systems are now modular and can be built up as your work grows.

If you plan to change over all your jobs to WFP it might be best to gradually introduce it to a few and increase the number as your confidence and skill grows. In this way the problems that may occur can be easily managed and tackled.

Proper scrubbing and rinsing techniques are a must, as with all cleaning, dirt must be loosened then removed; only now the weight of the water is doing the removal rather than a squeegee blade. If the result is not good after drying, try to determine why. Pure water doesn’t spot, so something else must have caused the poor result, the frame, the seal, the brickwork or something from above? Perhaps you didn’t rinse enough? And so on.

When using the pole, try to exercise a good, methodical, fluent technique. Move your body as well as your arms, by using a walking or rocking backwards and forward’s motion. Don’t do it all with your arms! You’ll burn out quickly and may experience strain. Stay relaxed, move around, take breaks when you need them, even if it’s every few minutes and you will build up your ability without injury. Similarly with new hires or help, start them off with the lower poles and build up ability before using the longer, often heavier poles. If you’ve been good with a squeegee on a pole you should take to this quite quickly as it is the same sort of dexterity. The neck can feel the strain too during the learning stages, feel free to look at your shoes a lot during break-time, and stretch as necessary. Click here for safety in window cleaning using WFP and for the HSE Window Cleaners Best Practice Guide Click here

The poles can be used in a variety of ways, often only limited by the imagination. They are being used from Cherry Pickers, Cradles, outside from inside window cleaning, even from Boats to clean buildings surrounded by water. Most windows are now accessible from the ground, as well as skylights, atria, cladding, UPVC, signage and many other hard solid surfaces that require cleaning at height. Poles are now finding have also found their place in the Residential window cleaning market, at last a safe way to easily clean that conservatory roof, and the window above, and the dangerous dormer window…however, always check for overhead power lines wooden poles can carry telephone AND electricity wires NEVER ASSUME the wire is a telephone wire! An overhead line does not have to be touched to cause serious injury or death as electricity can jump, or arc, across small gaps. . CLICK HERE always look up and look out! for the presence of overhead lines first, as contact can be fatal or cause life changing injuries. There will always be a place for the squeegee and in some cases, it will be the better or requested option, but the poles are just so damn useful!

Competition has had the effect of making the poles more popular. Customers are now aware of what they are. When we first started it felt like we had to explain the system on every window, to the sound of “Call yourself a Window Cleaner?!!” I remember thinking “Have we done the right thing?”

Keep your poles working in good condition. When parts wear, replace don’t bodge. The quick release clamps on some poles will wear fairly quickly due to the amount of use they get but are easy to replace. The pole sections will wear also eventually needing replacement. If a section snaps due to a fall it can be shortened with a saw, filed off and re-drilled to accept the clamp again. Over tightening the bolt on these clamps using tools can result in the clamp locating hole widening and the pole falling apart or the section falling off at height, so better to replace a warn clamp than have a pole come apart at height and cause injury or property damage.

Plan your work out in your mind before setting up, usually furthest away from the vehicle is best, laying the hoses between sensitive areas and putting up warning signs to make the public aware. As you will be looking up a lot make a mental note of trip hazards or move them, as necessary. Use extension hoses if required or move the vehicle to a better point of access as you work.

Working in sections is often better than continually moving hoses. If working near pavements or roads a second person is helpful to spot you with a large cone against people and traffic, and counter comments such as “That’s a big one!” or “You won’t catch many fish like that!” the list goes on. High visible vests or clothing is recommended here, as well as strategic parking of your vehicle to make a natural shield, as long as the vehicle itself doesn’t cause a hazard. Also, if during your risk assessment you decide that losing control of a tall pole and dropping it on the traffic is likely, consider applying to the Council to close the road or at least a lane of traffic. Better safe than sorry.

WFP is a maintenance tool which works best as far apart as six-monthly intervals but results here will not be as good as a monthly clean. So, if you encounter problems that are too time consuming tell this to the customer, or charge more as you may have to clean them more than once to get a good result. Any longer between visits and you may have to do frames first then clean the glass when dry, just like an initial clean, to get acceptable results, which is twice as much work and should be charged accordingly. See the links page for suppliers.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and clean up, and above all stay safe…… Martin Warman – FWC Member