Window Washers

Saturday morning I stepped out of the shower to be suddenly acutely aware that a man’s form was dropping into view right outside my 12th floor bathroom window. Needless to say, that kinda freaked me out.

It wasn’t some peeping tom going to great lengths to peep me (no, I don’t think that would ever happen); it was a window washer. After I got dressed I snapped a shot of the guy from my bathroom window.

window washer

These guys have been painting window frames (an ugly orange color) and washing the windows of my apartment building for something like a month already.

window washers

While completing all the necessary work, they’ve assembled this bamboo construct around the base of the building for safety. It’s quite an eyesore.

bamboo safety construct


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Less of an eyesore than what’s left of a migrant worker after falling a couple hundred feet without the benefit of a safety net, I suspect. 🙂

  2. Does the bamboo and netting construct actually serve any purpose other than saving someone the job of scraping up the result of what John B mentioned in the comment above? I seriously think that a person falling from 6 or more stories onto that bamboo would die anyway. The net looks like it’s just meant to stop the corpse from rolling off onto the street.

  3. That’s gross, but it does sound kind of coldly efficient doesn’t it?

  4. The netting is probably also to prevent anything dropped by the workers from falling directly onto the heads of passers-by. With this arrangement, a falling bucket or paint-brush will bounce off the net and THEN onto someones head – much safer.


  5. Yeah, I think Roddy is dead-on target there.

    The other day I was walking down the sidewalk, and there was bamboo scaffolding because workers were repairing the building. Decent-sized chunks of concrete were raining down right onto the sidewalk. The bamboo scaffolding “shield” deflected most of it.

  6. Roddy is correct. The whole affair is to contain debre. Bamboo has good material, bends and absorbs and yet has significant strength, but to assume that it would absorb a 60 or 70 kilo body falling 50 or 60 meters and stay intact or prevent serious enjury to that falling body is rather dubious. Personal worker safety is determined by how that worker is tied off.

  7. Hmm… My theory is that it’s actually meant to make man-kebabs.

    The whole thing looks like one of those chinese street side grills as well (lamb and squid kebabs).

  8. From an engineering point of view, bamboo’s flexibility and strong fibrous structure actually make it a very good material for scoffolding, not to mention light-weightedness.

  9. Roddy – also, spittle, cigarette butts, flasks of erguotou, etc.

  10. Neat idea for keeping debris off the street — and passers-by. Also very good use of a renewable resource. I wonder how much skill/training goes into being a scaffolding erector? A couple of sticks & some granny knots wouldn’t quite make it.

    The Public Broadcasting Network in the US did a show once of the Japanese bamboo bridge. It carried people & light vehicular traffic across the stream. It was a reconstruction of a pre-automobile structure. Even the bending fibers/ropes were bamboo.

    I wonder what type of bamboo is “construction grade.” The stuff growing in my back yard would never make it — neither of the two types, in fact. Maybe it’s “string grade”?

  11. these workers are most likely from outside of shanghai, come here to work for low-paid jobs with bad conditions. i often meet some of them in and around my office building.

    local shanghainese look down on them and some construction companies don’t pay enough attentions to the safety issues, i remember in last feww months two workers dropped downed from buildings and died.

    people call them äÁ÷ in 1980s, and in 1990s call them Ãñ¹¤, now call them Èë³ÇÎñ¹¤Õß¡£

  12. shanghai tv news reported another unfortunate guy dropped into a elevator tunnel tonight and dead.

    the 3rd one in just a few months. shameful.

    i was wondering what the local government did and will do to prevent this happen again.

  13. I would think you would have to have some sort of respect for these workers. They are simply doing their job to support their families, right?

    Do you have the balls to risk falling a couple of stories?

  14. I agree with Wei. They are earning an honest living for their families and it takes real guts to do what they are doing.

    Robert Lamb
    Window Masters

  15. i am a window washer myself and i do high rise building’s. the first comment about “what’s left of a migrant worker after falling a couple hundred feet without the benefit of a safety net, I suspect. :)” . Buddy your a moron. We have a safety line attached to a seperate tie off, so if we loose the first rope we only go down 6 feet into our safety and rope grab lanyard. This job is safer than riding the bus to work.

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