|A father and son team was working roughly five storeys high when the crane holding their steel basket aloft tipped over, police say.|
Montreal high-rise window-washers "No special training required" - They operate machinery and can work 40 or 50 storeys up in the air, but there are no specific training requirements and they get paid as maintenance people. That’s how industry veteran Jack Colati describes Montreal window washers, one of whom died on Sunday after the crane holding his basket about five floors up tipped over.
Another worker, the dead man’s son, was seriously injured in the accident, outside the Université du Québec à Montréal, at René-Lévesque Blvd. and St-Denis St. “Our business is not recognized as a profession — we’re just cleaners and the workers get paid the same as people who push a mop,” said Colati, owner of Future Window Cleaning.
Before a worker can operate a crane on a construction site, he or she must be certified, which requires more than 700 hours of training, he said. There is no such requirement for cranes used for window-washing, added Colati, who has been in the business for 25 years.
Under Quebec workplace safety law, an employer must ensure that anyone operating a crane has some training, said Marie-France Vermette, a spokesperson for Quebec’s workplace safety board, the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST). But if the crane operator is not on a construction site, the law does not specify the type or amount of training required, she added.
Witnesses have said the crane may have been badly set up, with an “outrigger” — a device used to support and stabilize the crane — placed on a patch of earth rather than on a solid surface. Colati said window washers are required to follow safety rules outlined in a booklet produced by the CNESST. “But it’s very easy to not read the rules,” Colati said. He said Quebec’s construction commission — the Commission de la construction du Québec — or the CNESST “should wake up” and impose new rules.
The CNESST is investigating Sunday’s accident. Vermette said investigators are interviewing witnesses and have seized the crane to inspect it. Normally, investigations take about five or six months, Vermette said. Six to eight companies in Montreal have the expertise to clean windows on highrises, Colati said.
In 2009, when a window-washer died after a fall from the 20th floor of a downtown building, the CNESST found that the worker — a foreman — was not wearing a safety harness at the time of the accident. The investigation found that an improperly installed electrical cable, inadequate work instructions and the absence of a structured health-and-safety approach were also contributing factors. In the 2009 report, the CNESST reminded employers of the importance of accident-prevention measures, training employees and supervising workplaces.