Cleaners hit the heights — of buildings and business

It’s a long way down. So long that falling means death.

But that’s a carefully controlled risk that the employees of an East York company take when they’re washing the windows of high-rise buildings across the GTA.

The company, Skyreach Window Cleaning, is located at 2857 St. Clair Ave. E., near O’Connor Drive.

The owner, Kevin Stanley, worked as a part-time window-washer in his student days in Toronto. This early job motivated him to start his own company in 1987, and now it has grown to be one of the biggest window-cleaning outfits in the region.

For this CEO, acrophobia was never an issue. Not even when he was 1,815 feet up, cleaning the CN Tower when he was just 18 years old.

Stanley considers himself a bit of an “adrenaline junkie.” But while he used to clean windows with his employees, he keeps his feet on the ground these days.

“See, my hands are nice and soft!” he joked.

But while high-rise window-washers appear precariously perched to the uninitiated, Stanley says that industry experience and ongoing technological innovation minimizes the risk.

“The best way we do it is by safety training, and that’s why we care, because the customers ask for that,” said Stanley.

No matter how safe the work is, however, not everyone can clean the outside of a skyscraper. A fear of heights can often get in the way.

“That’s one of our problems when we start hiring employees. A good chunk of the population is scared of heights, so we have to sift through the remainder of those who are not,” he said.

Stanley said that his company tries to be environmentally friendly. All of their basic cleaning solutions are biodegradable.

And the employees help out with jobs that would be extremely difficult to do without the special equipment and experience that window-washers have. Skyreach assists a charity to place high-definition cameras in the nesting areas of falcons.

“We’ve gone over the wall many times with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, and we help band the little chicks and grab them off the ledge and put them into bags,” Stanley said with a smile.

Stanley’s biggest competitor is actually his brother, Roger, who opened Scarborough’s Solar window-cleaning 10 years before Skyreach. But the two brothers share a competitive streak, and Stanley said there’s little chance that they’ll ever join forces.