In a live demonstration of the importance of workplace safety, the nations attention yesterday was riveted on two unfortunate window washers after they became stranded on a partially collapsed platform 700 feet over Manhattan. These two hard-luck cleaning engineers found themselves dangling precariously off the side of One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The window washers were heading to the top when one of the motorized cables slipped or broke, causing an abrupt literal and figurative attitude change in their workplace. 

The good news for them, since the building has only been open one week, is that the cable is probably still covered by warranty.

The two workers, with a combined experience of 19 years at washing high rise windows, were wearing safety harnesses securely tied to the rigging itself. Authorities assured all of us that they were perfectly safe and in little danger because of those precautions. At least, as little danger as one could be in when dangling in the wind at a 90 degree angle on a crippled lift with broken cables. 

The two were rescued when firefighters cut a hole in a 68th floor window and lifted them to safety. On a completely unrelated note, building managers report that person or persons unknown urinated all over windows between the 64th and 67th floors, so I hope they get that rigging fixed soon. Someone’s going to have to clean that mess up.

The event yesterday was a reminder that safety pays, and despite those precautions danger still lurks for many on the job. Due to it’s unique location and high visibility, this was a spectacularly notable failure for some equipment manufacturer,  while at the same time a tremendous victory for safety advocates everywhere. Most workplace accidents don’t have that unique positioning, but it does not make them any less relevant. 

I must admit that working in this industry has altered my thinking process. Where most people see an accident or momentary drama, I find myself analyzing the cause and nature of the occurrence. While the nation watched the events unfold and worried for the two occupants, I was thinking about the situation around the accident, as well as the ramifications should someone be injured in the process. This industry has ruined me for a good heart stopping accident. I just can’t enjoy them like an average citizen anymore.

You people did that to me. But to be fair, we probably have all done it to each other; which now that I type that sentence sounds much dirtier than I intended. 

You know what I mean.

An interesting side note to this tale is that the fire department almost couldn’t rescue them in the manner they intended. Apparently the glass used at One World Trade Center is a super strong polymer designed to withstand breakage – of any kind. They had trouble apparently cutting a hole in the glass. Maybe they should have made the window washers cable out of the same stuff. I’m just sayin’… 

But the good news is that with the exception of a bit of hypothermia, these guys survived unscathed, denying the nation a tragic television moment and enabling me to employ a bit of whimsy in discussing it. High rise window washing is a job that I could never do. It is dangerous work, and I prefer my work boots to be firmly planted on the ground.  

Besides, if that had happened to me and my workplace rigging suddenly assumed a dramatic new attitude, windows wouldn’t be the only thing needing washing. I’d be washing my shorts as well.


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