Rules and regulations
Perhaps the most important consideration with a window cleaning enterprise is health and safety. Before you even consider setting up shop, you should expect to spend time swotting up on health and safety. Taking courses, joining relevant industry bodies and reading up on government requirements: that’s all part of your initial investment.
“Training is very important,” says Damian Whittaker of the British Window Cleaning Academy. “It will not only equip you with the skills you need, but will also give you the confidence to build your business.” Christopher Turner of The London Window Cleaner agrees: he spent some five months researching the area. This is not a bad idea when you consider it will form one of the keystones in the reputation you build for your business.
When you’re first starting out, unless you are already an experienced and fully qualified window cleaner, it will be necessary to invest in staff and provide training for them. You should arrange training such as the Federation of Window Cleaners and Institute of Occupational Safety and Health-accredited “Cleaning Windows Safely” one-day course, which covers the use of water fed poles and portable ladders, for your staff.
There are many other courses too, which include one day risk assessment and policy courses, approved by the HSE and the IOSH. And as well as seminars such as their Introduction to Window Cleaning, and courses in Marketing a Window Cleaning Business, the BWCA runs a course in Health and Safety for Window Cleaners. “We found training to be very important and we update it regularly,” says Christopher. “It’s important that staff get their qualifications in cleaning.”
If you are comitted to building a good reputation as a window cleaning company, you need to take health and safety very seriously. You should meet with environmental health officers in different areas, and ensure you have the best health and safety documentation out on the market.
Intimately connected to health and safety, of course, is the issue of insurance. Be aware, insurance rates in the window cleaning industry can run quite high. “Insurance is mega hefty,” admits Christopher Turner of The London Window Cleaner. Having a dedicated broker is helpful. If you can present a sound health and safety record and a clean history, you can prove to the insurance broker that you operate in a safe manner: this should help bring your premiums down.
The nominated insurance brokers of the Federation of Window Cleaners is Allied Insurance Services Limited, and they offer exclusive offers on public and employer’s liability, underwritten by Hiscox, for Federation members. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, few companies in the UK sector are prepared to insure small window cleaning companies, which makes things difficult as there’s less competition and so insurance can be expensive. But, Christopher assures, a broker will help you get the right price.
It’s worth noting, that since 28th February 2005, a sole trader or single person in a limited company is no longer required to have employers liability cover. However, if have any hired help, even if it’s just seasonal or temporary workers you’ll need to make sure you’re covered.