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Window cleaner fined for unsafe work at height

20 March 2020

​Henry Robertson Ronald Brown, trading as Ronnie Brown Window Cleaning, was sentenced by the Royal Court, on 14 February 2020, after pleading guilty to a breach of Articles 3 and Article 5 of the Health and Safety at Work (Jersey) Law 1989.

A fine of £10,000 was imposed for each charge, applied concurrently, together with a contribution towards costs of £1,000.  The Court made it clear that had Mr. Brown’s financial situation been stronger the fine would have been considerably larger to reflect the gravity of the situation.

The prosecution arose from a complaint made by a member of the public who expressed concern over the safety of workers seen cleaning the windows of a hair dressing salon in Burrard Street. The complainant provided some photographs they had taken (one of which is replicated below) and commented that they had seen similar work practices at the premises on several occasions previously.

The ledge the two workers can be seen working from in the photograph was subsequently measured as approximately 45cm wide and 5 metres above street level. A third worker can be seen working in a dangerous manner from an unsecured ladder, with the risk of a fall of approximately two metres to the pavement below.  

The work area had no cones, barriers, warning signs or any other means of segregating the work area from pedestrians or traffic passing the site. A person or work equipment falling from the ledge had the potential to cause serious injury to persons passing by.

The subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Inspectorate identified that the salon owner had provided Mr Brown with a key to the salon to enable the windows, which were of a modern tilt and turn design, to be cleaned from within the salon in complete safety. This would have also reduced the risk to passers by. Mr Brown was unable to provide any explanation for why this option had not been adopted, apart from a belief that it was acceptable for windows to be cleaned up to first floor level without any specific precautions to be taken to protect against falls from height.

This is despite Mr Brown being subject to formal enforcement action in 2014 for an almost identical working practice at different premises in St Helier. 


The way the work was being carried out put all of the workers at significant risk of serious personal injury. Mr Brown failed to properly assess the risks associated with an inherently high risk activity, instead relying on the way the work had been carried out for many years without an accident as evidence that it must be safe.

In this instance there were two simple opportunities to eliminate the risk of falls:

  • cleaning the windows from within the salon (as the windows fully opened into the room) or;
  • using a ‘long reach pole system’ operated from ground level.

It is noted that Mr Brown has since invested in the latter washing system.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes guidance specifically aimed at window cleaning businesses that includes advice on how to control the risks of work at height.

Working at height whilst window cleaning on the UK HSE website

Guidance on assessing and controlling the risk of falls from height is available.

Risk assessments   

It is essential that all local window cleaners review their systems of work to ensure that they are taking all reasonably practicable steps to control the risk of falls whilst cleaning windows.

Further advice or guidance can be obtained from the Health and Safety Inspectorate website

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