GEORGE TOWN: Working outside tall buildings while suspended in a harness is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
Lee Thean Kooi (pic) has made this a part of his daily routine for the past 30 years.
“It’s a dangerous job, but with proper preparation and the necessary safety equipment, I feel confident that I can carry out the task safely.
“I always check my gear first before I start my climb out of tall buildings. I’ve worked at several high-rise buildings in Penang including a 30-storey building recently,” said Lee, who specialises in fixing awnings and metal roofs at high-rises.
The 51-year-old single parent said he engaged two co-workers to help him, but he would primarily perform the hazardous work on his own.
“I’m slightly built and not very tall. This makes me more agile and comfortable when I’m suspended from the top of a building.
“I don’t earn much from this work, but enough for me to raise my two kids. My two daughters always remind me to be careful out there and to get enough rest at night,” he said.
High-rise window cleaners are said to earn between RM150 and RM200 a day.
According to climber Mohammad Athzezul Athzelee, 37, the key was to avoid being overconfident.
“In our carabiners (shackles that attach climbers to ropes and harnesses) are locks. Maybe after climbing for 10 years, you think you are good enough and don’t bother to engage the carabiner locks.
“That is a big mistake. We never let ourselves get too confident.”
Mohammad Athzezul said that when he was in his 20s, he fell in love with rock climbing and abseiling, and after college, he followed his uncle and aunt, who were building contractors and also trainers under the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh).
He also became a Niosh trainer and when he went independent nine years ago, he set up an enterprise named “Goblin Access”, to express his ability to dangle off high-rise buildings to do various work from cleaning to equipment installation.
He confessed to sometimes feeling a mild sense of acrophobia, especially on windy days.
He said he had nothing to fear as long as the twin ropes, harnesses and attachments were all up to par.
“What we do is called rope access. This technique was developed in the 1980s on oil rigs at sea, and by now, it is full of safety features and backups. Never skip a step, and everything will be fine,” he said.
An incident that occurred in Kuala Lumpur in 2022 is still fresh in the minds of many.
During a storm, a cradle carrying workers broke loose from its moorings and swung uncontrollably through the air at a 48-storey building.
Information officer Christopher Tan said he had mixed feelings when he first spotted two window cleaners suspended from outside his office’s window in Komtar, Penang’s tallest building.
“I was worried for their safety and equally amazed that they could still remain so calm from that kind of height. More so with such hot weather and a strong wind.
“We could see them from inside the office but they could not see us due to the tint. These skyscraper heroes, as we dubbed them, are true professionals, as their job demands courage, resilience and commitment,” he said.
With a telescopic window squeegee in hand and a helmet for protection, the window cleaners are strapped to a harness and lowered down to clean the windows of the 65-storey Komtar building.
Komtar assemblyman Teh Lai Heng said the window cleaning was part of the repair and cleaning work carried out in Komtar.
“The last time such major work was carried out was in 2016.
“This time, work included cleaning of the tower and also restoration of cracks on the wall to overcome leakage problems during downpours.
“They will also get rid of the wild plants and rubbish in the yard on each floor of the tower,” he said.
Teh said the cleaning project would continue until Dec 31 this year.2023-05-26T00:13:34Z dg43tfdfdgfd