Window Washing Rooftop Anchors – Who is Responsible for incorporating Them Into the Building Plans?

When a multistory building is being constructed, a small but crucial detail are the anchors that must be installed for window washers to anchor to. By law from OSHA, these anchors need to support 5,000 pounds in any direction.

But who is responsible for planning for these anchors and ensuring they are part of the building plans?

According to Gregory Wilken from the building department at the City of Portland, this component is regulated by the Oregon building code but the specifics can be deferred at the time of the initial permit, and this is done about 99% of the time. Details about stairs and exterior cladding are examples of other items that are commonly deferred.

However, every deferred submittal must go back for final approval. For anchors, that usually means working with a company that manufacturers them to see how they can best be incorporated into the building.

So although an architect may show it on a diagram within plans, he or she is not ultimately responsible for it. According to a lead commercial architect, the engineer assigned to the project will review plans from the chosen anchor manufacturer (or contractor) and make the final determination as to attachment point suitability and approve it as part of putting their stamp on the complete project. This is generally done at the behest of the project manager or contractor for the project.

And that’s where confusion can potentially arise. Which party reaches out to a manufacturer, shares the project specifications, and ensures that when it’s time for construction to commence, that the plans for this small, but crucial component, have been incorporated and approved within the final permit? According to the City, the contractor is most often responsible for getting the deferred items submitted.

Literature from Malta Dynamics, a manufacturer of anchors, explains. “Window washing safety involves many different requirements for fall arrests than other situations may have. Specific standards set by the International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) and ANSI spell out exactly how to use window washing anchors. OSHA also has distinct guidelines for window washing anchors. Standard 1910.27 states that building owners are responsible for identifying, testing, certifying and maintaining roof anchors for window washing so that these devices can support 5,000 lbs. in any direction for each worker attached.”

In OSHA standard 1910.28, employers are required to provide fall protection systems for employees exposed to fall hazards. All OSHA window washing anchor regulations are vital to ensuring workers stay safe. Compared to other jobs that use fall protection systems, window washing is different. Workers are in suspension the entire time using an apparatus like a Bosun’s Chair or harness with ropes, which means using the proper window washing roof anchors is imperative. 

Most people on the job site usually use 12″ or 18″ roof anchors. When looking at window washing and standard roof anchors, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them. However, window washing anchors differ in that they usually require documentation.

In compliance with OSHA standards 1910.27 and 1910.28, building owners who want to have their windows cleaned must show documentation proving they’ve had window washing anchors installed and that these devices meet all requirements. Proof of documentation ensures the building owners provide safety measures for the workers.

After the building is constructed, the responsibility for window washing anchors shifts to the building owner, as they are required to have the anchors inspected annually and complete a 10-year certification. Regularly checking the anchors’ condition ensures they are safe for workers. 

In fact, in the OSHA Anchorage Requirements for Rope Descent Systems 1910.27(b)(1)(i), it now requires that before “employers use a rope descent system, the building owner must inform the employer in writing that the building owner has identified, tested, certified, and maintained each anchorage so it is capable of supporting 5,000 pounds in any direction, for each worker attached”.  The new regulations also require that the building owner base the information provided to the employer on:

  • An annual inspection
  • A certification of each anchorage, as necessary, and at least every 10 years

For new construction buildings the project team must be familiar with every needed aspect of a building and ensure that even a seemingly small detail like the window washing anchors, have been planned for, incorporated into plans, and approved in the final permit before the job commences.