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Health & Safety

Health & Safety

Safety in using telescopic poles for exterior cleaning

Telescopic pole systems have firmly secured their place in the spotlight, replacing traditional high-access equipment systems such as ladders and scaffolds to take the Exterior cleaning industry by storm.

The user can complete cleaning projects efficiently up to 50ft high with the use of these telescopic poles, all from the safety of the ground.

However, these moderns systems are not without their risks. The information detailed below, presents practical mitigations to reduce risks when working with this equipment.

Operational Risks

It is crucial to consider the following when assessing operational risks:

  • Building location and design
  • Site conditions
  • Obstacles and underfoot terrain
  • Weather conditions
  • Overhead power

It is also imperative to consider the medical history and wellness of the operator, as well as any muscular/skeletal disorders that could develop from incorrectly operating the tool.

Associated Hazards Of Telescopic Poles

  • Trip hazards (from trailing hoses, and operator being focussed on the work)
  • Slip hazards
  • Falls from flat roofs
  • Electrocution from a pole making contact with overhead power lines
  • Injury from dislodged items/falling poles
  • Incorrect manual handling of poles and equipment leading to injury
  • Carrying tanks/equipment that are heavy, unstable, or incorrectly in a vehicle.

Road Safety

Risk assessments for travelling to and from the worksite should include:

  • Security of the load- this is the drivers responsibility. Securing the load prevents it from moving in most driving situations, including emergency braking. However, the business owner must provide safe vehicles, equipment and means of securing the load.
  • Overloading Vehicles-the potential of overloading vehicles fitted with water tanks (especially when the vac drum or water tank is full).
  • Vehicle payload capacity and potential for overloading
  • Driving and braking conditions, including reducing speed due to a change in handling and to accommodate increased braking distances.
  • Drivers must be aware of their driving licence limitations (and the vehicles towing capacity when there is trailer mounted equipment).


Manual Handling of Telescopic Poles:

It is acceptable to operate waterfed poles with a maximum reach of 10m through arm movement alone

However, for poles extending beyond 10m, it is recommended to operate the pole with a combination of leg and whole body movement to reduce arm movement and the risk of upper body strain.

New and inexperienced staff should gain confidence with shorted poles before moving on to poles with a greater reach to develop their balance technique.

Measures to Reduce Fatigue:

  • Operate with greater leg use (take a single step forward or back)
  • Sharing the pole with other members of the team
  • Switching which side of the body you use at regular intervals
  • Take regular breaks to undertake other tasks
  • Taking periodic breaks free from activity

Preventing a Falling Telescopic Pole:

While it is unlikely for an operator to lose control during proper use of the pole to the point where it falls, It is still possible.

In this situation, as soon as the pole begins to fall the operator must swiftly step in the direction of the fall. This should correct the poles position and the operator should be able to regain full control.

It is vital that operators become familiar with this technique by undertaking easy-to-simulate falling pole practice drills.

Training and Competence:

All operators should be competent and trained, with the knowledge, experience and practical skills required for the work per their level of responsibility.

There are currently no nationally recognised qualifications regarding telescopic pole use. New employees, will therefore claim competence when joining a company. Management must assess proof of competence at the earliest opportunity, which is best evaluated on a live contract.

Both initial and ongoing assessments should meet the following criteria:

  • Daily pre-use check
  • Manual handling
  • Ground conditions
  • Cordoning off
  • Common Hazards
  • Assess gaps in knowledge with the appropriate training
  • Provide supervision until staff have sufficient competence
  • Do’s/Don’ts

 Competent Persons:

A competent designated person will possess suitable training, knowledge and experience to enable them to carry out their required duties per their level of responsibility, including:

  • Comprehending fully the potential hazards relating to their work
  • Detecting any defects or omissions in their work
  • Recognising implications that defects may have on Health & Safety
  • Identify appropriate responses to rectify issues (including refusal to work if its too dangerous)

Adverse Weather:

During windy conditions, consider the following:

  • It isn’t recommended to use Telescopic Poles in 30mph winds
  • Take care when moving away from a sheltered elevation to one more affected by the wind
  • Never leave telescopic poles unattended in an elevated position, regardless of wind strength


  • Don’t use poles when there is an ongoing risk of a lightning storm
  • Avoid using aluminium poles in environments where they may come within 2m of high-voltage electricity sources

Working in Exposed Positions:

The need to concentrate on overhead activity may expose the operator to further hazards, including:

  • Trips and falls
  • Falls from flat roofs
  • Collisions with pedestrians
  • Collisions with road traffic

Risk Assessment:

The first step in minimising risks is to identifying them and the possible precautions. Typically, precautions might include:

  • Operator’s awareness of surrounding
  • Considering the day/time of cleaning
  • Provision of high-visibility clothing
  • Cordoning off the work area to prevent public access.
  • Providing roof edge protection
  • Provision of PPE- in this situation this is limited to protection against adverse weather conditions. However, hard hats may be advisable when there is a risk of dislodging debris and defective building fabric.

Lone Working:

Exterior high-level cleaners shouldn’t work alone in any area that would involve increased risk to their safety (including busy streets)

  • If working in a team on a single site, hourly checks should be made on any lone worker.
  • If a worker is dropped off at a job to work independently, contact should be made every hour.
  • If the operator is working independently for an entire day or shift, the an hourly contact system

To Conclude:


  • Carry out equipment-checks prior to use
  • Always cordon off working areas in public with suitable warning signs


  • Don’t use a defective telescopic pole
  • Don’t use a telescopic pole in adverse weather conditions (including high winds and lightning storms)
  • Don’t use a telescopic pole near overhead power lines

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