Window Cleaning Magazine Featured Empire High Rise (click to read interview)
Jorge: When I got into window cleaning I was trained in commercial, it took a while before I could be trained in high rise.
Lee: In all seriousness, training and supervision is real important when you are starting out on rope repelling. How did you learn?
Jorge: Once it was time for me to learn high rise I was trained by a supervisor for two weeks. It was a one story building.
Lee: Can you remember your first scramble over the wall into the Bosons chair?
Jorge: (Laughs) Of course, I was hanging off the building where I was being trained. A one story building. I was very nervous stepping into the chair. I froze half way in the chair and had to crawl back on to the roof. After taking a couple minutes to work myself to it I was able to successfully drop.
Lee: How do you think I did on my initial training prior to my first official drop?
Jorge: You did real good. You learn quick.
Lee: Footwear is important? What about a helmet? I know I did not wear one in the film. In fact most of the time I had a Go Pro camera strapped to it (laughs) face once you went over. I’m glad I could be there in person for that moment….. Footwear is important because you use your feet to hold on to the structure, to reach and stand but you sure don’t want to wear any heavy shoes/boots that may damage or break glass nor do you want to wear any nice pair you may have. The facade of the building will wear them out very quickly.
High Rise Window CleaningLee: What is the first thing you think about when you turn up to a job?
Jorge: I think about safety. How is the roof? What does it look like? Is there a parapet wall? Anchors? How can we successfully service this property in the most efficient and safe way?
Lee: Tell us about the figure eight and what does it do?
Jorge: The figure eight is a device used for rock climbing. We use it for rescuing ourselves or someone else. It can only be used for repelling. It is your best friend; you never want to be in a chair without one.
Lee: Have you ever had to self-rescue yourself?
Jorge: I was repelling from one floor to another when about 8 wasps stung me on my legs. I didn’t know it but there was a huge nest below me. I panicked and started shaking to get them off when I felt this tight pull. I looked up and I had let go of my rope grab. Now I’m hanging, still getting stung and not able to move since I wasn’t able to reach my rope grab. I had to lock my rope and kill all the wasps. My legs were burning. The guy next to me (about 8 feet) was just sitting there laughing at me. (Laughs). I couldn’t hold it against him; I would have laughed at him if it had happened to him. I had to tie a couple knots with my safety, stand up in a climbing motion and reach for my rope grab. Then back to work!
Lee: What’s the scariest job you have done?
Jorge: Oh man…there is this job we have had for a couple of years now where the roof sticks out of the building about 10 feet. We have to drop and do a rope transfer on the tenth floor. It’s some scary stuff. I’ll have to show you some pictures; maybe you can include them in the magazine.
Lee: So what’s the deal with Empire? You help other window cleaning companies in the US as well, right?
Jorge: Yes, our goal through Empire Highrise U.S.A. is to empower window cleaning companies across the United States who do not offer high rise to not turn down any business that may come to them and or go out and try to gain business of those buildings they have always wanted to clean. We are insured to 44 stories nationwide. Empire can work along with them to successfully clean any building they may have in their city. Not only can they now offer high rise in their city and make money every time we come out but they can make money year round, here is an example…
Mole Window Cleaning in Savannah, GA. gets a lead from a 20-story hotel that needs all windows cleaned every six months but the property needs all entrances, lobby and restaurant cleaned every 2 weeks. Mole window cleaning company can profit every two weeks from that maintenance clean and can also make a profit every 6 months when we come out and do all high rise work. They make money both ways. It’s a win-win.
Lee: Is there a lot of money to be made in high rise?
Jorge: I believe so.
High Rise Window CleaningLee: Do you need to tie up squeegees and strip washers on high buildings? Have you ever dropped anything?
Jorge: Yes, it is very important especially in high traffic areas. We do have barricades set up at all times in order for the public not to come in contact with our ropes on the ground. We block off an area large enough to be safe if in fact anything does drop. I’ve dropped a few squeegees and wands in my time (smiles very big)
Lee: Describe your perfect day up on the side of a building? Bet the office views are great?
Jorge: A perfect day for us in the high rise industry is a partly cloudy day with no wind. Mild temperatures where we can wear shorts but not too hot. I think we have the best views in the world outside of skydiving. We are high, safe and able to enjoy the views/weather. I love my job.
Lee: Have you ever used water fed poles during high rise work?
Jorge: We have played with the thought but not yet. Perry Tait (who is like a brother to me) from Future of Cleaning and I are working together in order to try cleaning some buildings. I see it being very beneficial depending on the way the building is shaped and what type of windows the building has.
Lee: What squeegee do you reach for?
Jorge: I honestly use any squeegee I can get my hands on. I really have no preference.
Lee: What water fed pole and system would you reach for?
Jorge: We use a RHG R-5 for our water fed system. It is a heavy-duty machine. Our favorite pole is the Reach-iT PRO. We have yet to find a pole that will work as good as ReachiT. Not only is the pole the best in my opinion but also the warranty is unmatched.
Lee: Explain why tie back locations are important and what to look for?
Jorge: Tie backs are the most important thing in our line of work. We have to make sure that these are OSHA accepted, not to mention they will be the things to hold on to all of our weight when on a drop. There is no playing around when looking for the proper tie backs. Your life depends on them. You want to look for anything that can hold 5,000 pounds or more. Anchor points, steel beams, etc.
Lee: Is it bad practice to do a drop without a partner?
Jorge: Yes, it is the worst thing you can do other than not tying back to proper tie backs. If you are in a situation where you need rescued the first 30 minutes are very critical. If there is no one around to help release tension to your body or rescue you it could be fatal.
Lee: What does it mean to be inspected by OSHA and what does it mean if they give a company a ‘ticket’?
Jorge: OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, their main concern when inspecting our workplace is to make sure we are following their safety rules as to proper tie backs, equipment and overall safety in the workplace. To get a ticket/fine you have to be either not using the proper equipment, risking lives and not using proper tie backs to mention a few.
Lee: How long does one drop take like the 6 story building in the ‘High Rise with Empire’ film?
Jorge: Those are pretty easy drops, it would take us about 10-15 minutes to clean the glass. With setup I would say 20-30. There is a 43 story building I know that takes 4-6 hrs a drop depending on your speed just for the glass.
Lee: Would you have me in your crew again?
Jorge: Yes, you are welcome here anytime brother. I want to thank you for coming out to our part of the world to experience your first drop with us. It has been a very nice experience to our crew and my family. You always have a home in Kansas City.
I got heaps of respect for Jorge and his family and I am looking forward to seeing them in the future. Kenneth (in the film) is a man who knows what he is doing. I thank him for showing us all what High Rise is all about and for keeping me safe during the filming.
KCSourcelink – Entrepreneurs In Action: Empire High Rise
As the owner of Empire Highrise USA, a company that cleans the windows of some seriously tall buildings in Kansas, Missouri, Georgia, Nebraska, South Carolina and Tennessee, Jorge Aguilar knows firsthand: if you’re going to reach great heights, you need a solid anchor.
Jorge found that support from the Urban Business Growth Initiative (which, by the way, offers scholarships to eligible businesses, taking its high impact courses from a price tag of several hundred to just $75). Through courses like FastTrac® GrowthVenture™, one-on-one counseling and a growth-minded mentor, he grew his businesses and changed his entrepreneurial mindset.
While most 18 year olds make money with their feet firmly planted on the ground, Jorge was scaling the sides of buildings, landing his first job as a window washer at just 18 years old. Three years later, he started his own business, Empire Window Cleaning.
eClean Magazine January 2015 – Empire High Rise USA: Have Squeegees, Will Travel
While many 18-year-olds make money sacking groceries or bussing tables, Jorge Aguilar was hanging from the sides of Kansas City skyscrapers for a local window cleaning company.
I’m ambidextrous (i.e., can use both right and left hands equally), and once my employer found out, he quickly asked if I would be interested in doing highrise,” Jorge explained.
Jorge admits his first time over the edge was very scary and “not as cool” as he had hoped it would be. “I froze and came right back up the edge,” he said. “I think it takes all of us a little getting used to but you either love it or you hate it.” And once he got pas that initial fear, he has “always loved it. It truly is my passion.”
Cleaner Times April 2015 – Taking Protection to New Heights: Safeguarding Employees Working in High Places
“Some people are afraid of heights and will feel un-comfortable on a flat rooftop, let alone hanging from a bosun’s chair suspended over the side of a 30 story building. You have to take the training slowly and not force anyone to do something they may be afraid of. Working at heights can be very scary, and safety should always be top of mind.”