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Cleaners with nerves of steel

18 Feb 2020 / 17:14 H.

Mohd Noorzaid Rambly, 38, is a certified industrial rope access technician who cleans windows of high rise buildings. People tend to look down on Noorzaid when he tells them he is a window cleaner. But many don’t realise it takes nerves of steel to be in this profession.

Before every job, Noorzaid and his partner will ensure they gear up for the day and the safety helmet is one of the most important equipment for high rise window cleaners.

Noorzaid putting on a safety helmet.
Noorzaid putting on a safety helmet.

Prior to each descent, all equipment is checked. Each window cleaner has two sets of ropes attached to him, and anchored independently to permanent structures. One is a working line and the other serves as a safety net.

Noorzaid and Tajul checking the equipment.
Noorzaid and Tajul checking the equipment.

High rise window cleaners work in pairs and communicate using walkie talkies. Noorzaid recalls an occasion when he was caught in a storm. “My partner and I were just 10 minutes into the cleaning process when it began to rain heavily. The wind was so strong it blew my partner across the side of the building.” They could not do anything but hang in there for 45 minutes. “It was nerve-wrecking but experience has taught us to stay calm.”

Noorzaid descents as Tajul looks on.
Noorzaid descents as Tajul looks on.

A third person remains at the top of the building to raise the alarm if something goes wrong or if the weather turns.

A cleaner gives the thumbs up sign to show all is good.
A cleaner gives the thumbs up sign to show all is good.

Working under difficult conditions requires one to be both physically fit and mentally strong. “It gets bad when the weather turns,” says Noorzaid. “Although it is nerve-wrecking but experience has taught us to stay calm, even in bad weather.”

Noorzaid and Tajul scaling down a high rise building armed only with ropes and harness.
Noorzaid and Tajul scaling down a high rise building armed only with ropes and harness.

While the job can be exciting, high-rise window cleaners must also put up with some inconveniences. “We have a limited amount of time to clean so we have lunch in mid air,” says Noorzaid. But things can get a little tricky when Nature calls. “Invariably, we end up wetting our pants,” he adds with a laugh.

Cleaners sitting on a wooden board to help reduce cramps while cleaning.
Cleaners sitting on a wooden board to help reduce cramps while cleaning.

While Noorzaid concedes that high rise window cleaning is a risky job, he enjoys the freedom of being in the air. The tallest building he has cleaned is the 78-storey Four Season Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. “The view from up there is astonishing,” he says.

Time to go home.
Time to go home.

Training is required to be a certified industrial rope access technician. The job pays RM2,000 to RM5,000 a month, more than a window cleaner with feet planted firmly on terra firma.

Packing up for the day after a 9am to 6pm shift.
Packing up for the day after a 9am to 6pm shift.

Abseiling at more than 150m above ground with only ropes and harness can be nerve-wrecking but for Noorzaid, it has become a daily routine.

Tajul carrying the ‘tools’ of his trade..
Tajul carrying the ‘tools’ of his trade..

It’s all in a day’s work for Noorzaid and Tajul where dedication precedes danger high above the city!

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