Date published: August 13, 2020
Property maintenance services are back on the agenda. But as they return to programmed maintenance, it’s critical that housing associations and public landlords employ property teams that are following the strictest safety guidelines. Here are seven essential steps that your property maintenance team should take to ensure COVID-19 safety measures are being followed.
The risks to workers, residents and others should be considered by way of a risk assessment focused on COVID-19 hazards. This is a legal and moral responsibility, and provides the property team with a baseline to take all practicable steps to minimise risks.
The risk assessment should be shared with the team, demonstrating that the risk assessment has been properly conducted and that all appropriate measures to reduce risks have been taken.
This isn’t about creating reams of paperwork (and for small operations of fewer than five people no paperwork is needed), but about making sure all precautions have been taken to reduce risk to COVID-19.
The Health and Safety Executive provides detailed guidance here.
All employers have a duty of care toward their employees, and good management listens to the concerns of their workforce. After all, they are the ones ‘at the coalface’. They understand the issues and challenges better than anyone, and know how best to work safely.
At Hankinson Group, we encourage our people to be open, and make decisions jointly with management. Often, this leads to processes that go above and beyond the minimum health and safety standards as laid out in industry regulations – and that’s a source of pride for us.
Whether you employ an in-house maintenance team or outsource property maintenance, every effort should be made to ensure safety of the residents who are most at risk. During our risk assessment processes, we’ll ask about older residents and those with existing health conditions that may make them more vulnerable than others.
We keep our teams fully informed of more vulnerable residents, and they will then ensure that they take all measures necessary to work safely around people’s homes when needed. This includes rearranging work if residents are self-isolating or shielding.
Social distancing measures must be followed, and not only on-site, but also when travelling to and from sites. Depending on the site itself, if ‘one-way’ travelling can be implemented, it should be.
Signage to remind workers of the social distancing rules and controlled flow should be placed in sight, and there should be site access and exit points.
Residents will be used to seeing maintenance professionals wearing high-vis jackets, safety goggles, and safety footwear. Coronavirus has added to the list of PPE that teams and individuals must carry. Depending upon the job, employees may now be required to wear facemasks and other respiratory equipment, as well as gloves.
Tools should not be shared if avoidable, and if they are shared then hands should be washed before and after each shared use. Indeed, handwashing should now be a constant activity when on-site – with employees sanitising their hands upon entry and exit and regularly during the day.
Workers who travel to work on public transport should wear facemasks. If team members are travelling together in the same vehicle, then the windows should be open – and, of course, hand sanitiser should be used before, during, and after shred journeys.
It’s easy to forget that workplace hygiene is also critical. We know that COVID-19 can be transmitted through contact, and so it’s essential to keep surfaces, tools and equipment sanitised. Effective measures include:
Residents are going to be nervous. They’ve been locked down for weeks, and bombarded with a stream of scare stories. But as we’ve progressed through this difficult time, we’ve learned more about how the virus acts and what we can all do to protect each other from infection.
Before work starts, it’s good practice to let residents know what they can expect and about all the measures that the property maintenance team will be taking to ensure their safety. If working in a resident’s home, you should make sure that they understand the social distancing rules mean they cannot be in the same room where work is being carried out. Oh, and not to offer a cup of tea, as it will have to be refused!
These are testing times in which we live. But we’re learning more about COVID-19 and the processes that must be followed to ensure the safety of residents when maintenance work is carried out. These seven steps are must-follow best practices, but you can expect them to be continually updated as we move forward.
One thing you can rely on is that our property maintenance service teams work to the most current and highest standards. To find out more, don’t hesitate to contact us today.