Sun | Jul 22, 2018

'Sky Climbers'! - Risky ride to clean high rise buildings

Published:Sunday | March 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones
Sky climber’ Rudolph Murray cleaning the windows on a high-rise building in New Kingston.
Easy as 1-2-3 is what ‘sky climber’ Sherman Anderson seems to be saying as he cleans the windows on a high-rise building in New Kingston.

It is not a job for the faint of heart, but it is one which Rudolph Murray and Sherman Anderson enjoy, so much so that they have been doing it for at least 10 years each.

Murray and Anderson are among a handful of Jamaicans who call themselves 'sky climbers', and who take on the job of going to the top of some of the tallest buildings in Jamaica to paint, clean windows, pressure-wash walls, install signs, and other changes.

Despite facing the heights for the past 15 years, Murray still regularly contemplates quitting, as he questions his decision to take on such a dangerous profession.

"When certain things reach you, you question yourself. Why am I up here doing this?" said Murray.

"Coming down you say, 'yuh know mi not going back up der'. But when you remember that it's a job and someone has to get it done and you're already in the business, by the next day you just shake it off and move on," added Murray, as he told our news team that the scariest part of his job is when there is a sudden gust of wind which sends the sky-climbing chair dancing.


"It is a job, so we have to get it done, but there is risk included. It is a risky job but as years pass you just brave up. Sometimes we will have cold feet, especially on a windy day when we are up there and the breeze catches us and the chair makes two dances."

Murray is still haunted by the passing of one his co-workers who fell while working on a building in downtown Kingston.

"The machine broke down part way and he was trying to get up there (top of building) in such a silly way, by climbing on to the rope, as he had seen another co-worker who is good at that do," Murray recounted. "But when he got halfway his hands started to give way and he fell to the ground."

The father of two said the profession is not one he would encourage his 22-year-old son to get involved in despite having been introduced to it by his brother.

"These young people take everything lightly, and to do a serious job you have to make certain of your safety," said Murray.

"Before you touch this (sky) chair in the mornings at work you have to check everything, even the rigging of the roof," added Murray.

Anderson, who quit his job as a painter 10 years ago to become a sky climber, said his first job was the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica building, and that was the only time he actually felt fearful.

"You only feel a way the first time you go up," said Anderson.

"After I saw how it worked and knew I had surety at the top because we have our safety belts and a rope that's tied to the top, so in case of an accident, the rope keeps you up until someone comes," added Anderson.

Murray and Anderson both work for SkyJam Building Services Limited, which is owned by Adrian King.

The company is into the general maintenance of buildings and has five persons on staff, with up to 35 persons engaged on contract when required.

"We do everything to do with the maintenance of tall buildings, and we rent the equipment to the construction sector as well," said King.

"We don't have many high rises in Kingston, and then the cycle is they will paint every five to seven years. So there is a market for general maintenance, window cleaning and so on, which comes more often than the painting," added King.

He said the highest building his company has worked on is between the Moon Palace Hotel (formerly Jamaica Grand), which is roughly 145 feet, and PanJam building (125-130 feet).