Work/play balance: rope-access window cleaning on Sea-to-Sky’s tallest buildings

On any given weekend, you’ll likely find Zack Hrabarchuk dangling from a rope on the Stawamus Chief or another nearby cliff. The opportunity to enjoy British Columbia’s most stunning views and the invigorating thrill of rock climbing are what compelled him to move to B.C.’s outdoor capital.

Finding work/play balance is easier here, too. As operations manager of Granite Property Maintenance (formerly Nate Solutions), many of his rock-climbing skills are the same he employs to clean the windows and exteriors of a growing number of low-rise buildings in the Sea-to-Sky corridor. 

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Whether he’s at work or play, there is one very important constant — safety.

Not only has he earned rope-access certification from both the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) and Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT), he has ensured that all of his staff are properly trained and certified in compliance with WorkSafeBC regulations.

“We are by far the safest company in the corridor and we’re thoroughly equipped to handle the challenges of new buildings,” he says, citing Rockcliff and Aqua as two recent clients. “The vast majority of our residential home projects don’t require the same level of certification but our safety measures transfer throughout the entire company.”

In the early days of high-rise window cleaning, cleaners dangled from Bosun chairs, which owe their provenance to the boatswains responsible for a ship’s hull. With Bosun chairs, if there’s an accident the cleaner falls until the safety harness stops him or her. Rope access keeps the technician in a controlled descent, making self-rescue easy.

“They actually pulled in a lot of the safety systems you’d use on the mountain,” Zack says of rope access certification. “Rope access is incredibly safe. With Bosun chairs, usually their emergency plan is to call 911 and hope. That’s not a good plan.”

Although rope access was widely in use when Zack started off cleaning windows on some of Vancouver’s tallest high-rises nine years ago, he’s concerned that local rules do not require developers to install rope anchors on top of new multi-storey buildings.

“This will be a problem for Squamish as it continues to get taller and denser,” he says. "In some cases, even a boom lift won't allow for completion of some scopes of work.A person on a rope is a lot easier to fit between two buildings than a boom lift. And cheaper. Cleaning from the ground isn't always possible either, or sometimes produces sub-par work."  

Find out how Granite Property Maintenance can clean your hard-to-reach windows and exteriors at www.granitepropertyservices.com or call 1-855-446-9974. 

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