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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Sara Garrity

'Not a safe practice': Safety concerns arise over street-side window washers

Window washers don't have to wear high vis clothing when on the roads. Picture by Elliott Fox

Many Canberrans would have experienced a window washer approaching their car at an intersection with a squeegee and bucket in hand, offering to clean their windscreen between green lights.

But concerns have been raised around the safety issues they pose to both themselves and others on the road.

Canberra is the only jurisdiction in Australia that allows the practice of street-side window washing.

Canberra city resident Elliott Fox said he is concerned about the safety issues these people on roads create, and questions the government's justification for them being there.

"My advocacy around this has stemmed from personal experience, I've had unpleasant interactions and a lot of my friends have said the same thing," he said.

"They're dressed in regular clothes despite being located on roads, so visibility is not good when really they should be wearing high vis. It's not a safe practice."

Mr Fox, who lives in the city, said he witnessed window washers along Northbourne Avenue regularly.

He said the exchanges he has are not always positive.

A member of staff at 7-Eleven in Braddon alleged people had been stealing their window cleaning equipment to use along Northbourne Avenue.

"That's the other concern. As well as being dangerous, some of them are performing this work illegally," the staff member said.

After unsuccessful Fix My Street applications in 2022, Mr Fox said he resorted to contacting the ACT government directly.

He received a response from Minister Chris Steel, who said the practice was legal in the ACT.

"Section 236 (4) of the Road Transport (Road Rules) Regulation 2017 permits a pedestrian to stand on, or move onto, a road (other than on a designated intersection) to wash or clean, or offer to clean, the windscreen of a vehicle," he said in a letter.

The letter acknowledged changes that were made within the Road Transport (Road Rules) Amendment Regulation 2018 (No 1) (the Amendment Regulation) which banned window washers from certain intersections.

ACT Policing said they were always proactive in dealing with pedestrians and others causing potential danger on the roads, particularly along the areas flagged in the legislation.

"ACT Policing conducts proactive patrols as operational priorities allow in an effort to deter criminal activity and anti-social behaviour," they said in a statement.

"There is specific legislation that permits window washing and other activities to occur at intersections. However, window washers were banned from five major intersections on Northbourne Avenue and the Federal Highway due to changes to traffic light phasing for light rail.

"At all times, ACT Policing's focus is on maintaining an educated approach and will use their discretion as to whether they issue an infringement notice or provide a warning if window washers are operating at a designated intersection."

Mr Steel also acknowledged in the letter the ACT's choice to allow the work, despite no other states or territories doing so.

"Due to the fact that some individuals are reliant on the income that comes from window washing, the ACT Government chose to permit these services since 2004. Other jurisdictions would be aware of the ACT's position through national working groups," he said.

Mr Fox said he believed Mr Steel's reasoning was missing the point.

"It kind of highlights that the government is trying to kind of push away their own responsibility around supporting people who are on low income, or who are homeless by trying to push that burden back on to the general population," he said.

"If it is an issue around supporting these people to have an income, the government really should be acknowledging that there is an issue there in terms of supporting those people and not shaking off the responsibility to better help them.

"It's only a matter of time before someone is injured or killed as a result of this dangerous practice."

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