A Sydney window cleaner has been injured today after falling approximately four floors onto a balcony while cleaning windows on a hotel at Gloucester Street in The Rocks.

The window cleaner, who was using rope-style window cleaning equipment, is reported to have suffered leg injuries in the fall.

SafeWork NSW is investigating the incident which comes as they release the preliminary findings of their investigation into an incident where two men fell approximately 10 storeys from a Sydney CBD building on Tuesday, 20 October.

The men, who were harnessed, were cleaning windows on a 12 storey building on the corner of Pitt and Bridge Street in the city when the window cleaning cradle that they were working in suddenly fell to the awning below.

SafeWork NSW commenced an investigation into the incident which included sending the window cleaning cradle, known as a building maintenance unit, to SafeWork NSW’s TestSafe facility at Londonderry for testing and analysis.

The initial findings of the investigation indicate that the cause of the collapse was a failure of the connection between the winch and the cradle. The connection used a single bolt, loaded primarily in tension, at each of the two winches. It is believed one of the bolts failed, causing a sudden transfer of the load to the bolt at the other end, which then also failed.

The bolts, which are hidden within the connection, cannot be inspected without the connection being disassembled.

Inspections revealed that both bolts showed signs of significant fatigue-related cracking which would have weakened them, resulting eventually in the sudden failure which occurred without warning.

In response to the findings, SafeWork NSW will undertake an awareness program and verification activities in early 2016 on buildings where Building Maintenance Units and Industrial Rope Access are used.

SafeWork NSW Executive Director, Peter Dunphy urged all owners and users of building maintenance units and suspended scaffolds to inspect their equipment in the lead up to the verification visits.

“Operators should undertake regular inspections of building maintenance units and suspended scaffolds so that defects such as fatigue cracks are identified,” Mr Dunphy said.

“They should also consider whether their current inspection and maintenance programs are adequate to prevent equipment failure in the future.

“A similar incident occurred in 2009 due to undetected fatigue cracks on a suspended scaffold which resulted in the death of one worker and serious injuries to another.

“Fortunately, although the workers were seriously injured, they both survived, but the result could have been very different.”

SafeWork NSW has published a safety alert with guidance for owners and users of building maintenance units and suspended scaffolds on how to prevent similar incidents.

Operators seeking further information on building maintenance units should refer to the Australian Standard.

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