So you think you can clean windows

The job is everything you think it is, but at the same time it isn’t. It requires working from unimaginable heights; except of course, when it doesn’t. When we think of window cleaners, the first thing we think about is the “crazy people” high in the sky. We’ve all strolled along near a high-rise building and seen a human being, just like us, strewn up alongside the building, at what seems like 1,000,000 feet in the air, happily scrubbing and then squeegeeing a window clean. It all seems so heroic in a way, doesn’t it? Aurum Window Cleaning’s Bruno Silva was happy to talk about what it’s like to be a window cleaner and he did quite the job dispelling misconceptions about the profession and the people who do it.

Bruno is one of our company’s longest standing employees. During his time, he’s seen and done it all – which is what has made him the perfect choice to not only train new staff members that join our team, it also makes him the right expert to help us delve into what it’s really like being a window cleaner.

First off, they are not ‘crazy people.’ They wake up at the same time you do, even punch in and punch out between 8AM & 5PM (although we do offer “off-hour” cleaning for those who prefer it). He was also quick to point out, window cleaning can be done on high-rise commercial AND residential units. Not to downplay the exploits of those you do see harnessed to a rope, but because of the nature of the buildings worked on by companies just like us, many of the jobs are performed at heights that are much easier to handle mentally.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t thrilled about how the public perceives them. According to Bruno, many of his window cleaning brethren enjoy their daredevil reputation among the mere mortals who have ground firmly beneath them on a daily basis. “They like that people think they are crazy. A lot of their friends think that it is crazy that they are doing this and yet, so cool at the same time.” These are, however, just regular people. Regular people who have set aside any doubt and fear thanks to rigorous training and instruction.

We’ve all had to train, in some way or another, for the jobs we currently hold and window cleaners are no different. These are highly trained people performing their daily tasks.

As Bruno explains, “In high-rise, there can be ‘swing stage work.’ This refers to those big, motorized suspended scaffolds that you see on the side of buildings. Because they are suspended on steel cables, workers need to do Ministry Regulated training, which is called suspended access. There is also a training called ‘Working at Heights.’ This involves any kind of work that requires harness equipment.”

Depending on the task at hand, a worker requires one of or both permits and that doesn’t include the on-the-job training someone like Bruno offers after someone is hired onto the Aurum crew. It’s one thing to know how to keep yourself safe, it’s something completely different to then perform a job once safety is ensured.

While being thoroughly trained is something we all can relate to, the job does come with some moments that are unique to the profession. After all, how many people are obsessive about closing the blinds when they’re on the 20th floor of a condo? Bruno was very forthcoming when listing some of the more interesting things he’s seen. “I have seen scantily clad people, people running away because all of a sudden we are in front of their window. I have even made some friends,” he stated of some of the more interesting things he’s come across during his time as a window cleaner.  Mostly though, people look to have a little fun with their friendly neighbourhood window cleaner. “Sometimes people ask you to take pictures with them. Some people will stage stuff if they see that the window cleaners are coming, just to mess with them.”

While it can be fun, and doing your job properly is a top priority, safety is very much of the utmost concern. Things can sometimes happen and window cleaners need to be ready – a reality that Bruno ensures his crew is ready for. “For every building we have to create a work plan. Every plan involves what to do in case of emergencies. Plans also involve the scope of work and timelines but they have to state what’s needed in case of emergency. For example, window cleaners are required to self-rescue.”

Bruno listed breaking a window, going through a unit should a balcony be present or, even dialing 911 and waiting for help, as emergency rescue methods window cleaners plan out prior to taking on their daily task.

At the end of the day, some of the tasks performed by Bruno and his crew do defy what many typical 9-5’ers would consider normal. While their exploits may seem superhuman, all they’ve done is found a way to overcome fear to enjoy a rare profession that can provide some interesting perspective.

There really is nothing superhuman about window cleaners. They’re regular people who have worked hard to be able to do what they do, and they’re able to do what they do only after training and taking into account the dangers that are inherent in their profession. We all face danger and fear at various points in our lives. What a day in the life of a window cleaner can teach us is that preparation and knowledge can make any task seem doable – even remembering to close the blinds on your 20th storey condo when the window cleaners are outside.

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