Date published: August 6, 2020
We’ve worked hard to share all of the latest government advice on working safely during coronavirus. We’ve produced a new manual – Site Operating Procedures during Coronavirus Pandemic – and rolled out training to our staff to prepare them for the ‘new normal’. Whenever there is an update in the rules or advice, we update our procedures and alert our people.
Here’s a few things that tradespeople working in property maintenance for Hankinson now know about working safely during coronavirus.
The landscape has changed over the last few weeks. During the lockdown, only urgent and essential work could be undertaken – such as repairing a burst pipe. Providing we follow all the coronavirus rules, local authorities, housing associations, landlords and contractors can now carry out:
Now the rules have been relaxed, and it’s back to business as normal (almost).
We now work as a socially distanced team. That means we’re further apart than usual. We’ve still got great teamwork, but communicating is a little more difficult – especially if we’re wearing masks. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, and it’s important for the safety of our customers and their residents, too. It’s surprising how quick you get used to working a few feet apart.
We’re all in this battle together, and that means we must be extra conscious about where we’re working, inside and out. We’ll call ahead whenever it’s practical, to make sure that it’s still okay for us to come and work. One of the questions we ask is if the residents whose house we’re working in are self-isolating, showing symptoms of COVID-19, or considered ‘at risk’. If they are, we’ll call off the work and reschedule. The health of employees, residents and others must be our number one priority.
Of course, if the resident needs an emergency repair, we need to enter the property. But we’ll still assess the need with the landlord and the resident, and delay whenever it is sensible to do so. If the repair must be done, then we’ll take extra precautions: wearing extra PPE, ensuring that the residents are in a separate room, and so on.
Hankinson are exceptionally good at keeping us informed about changing procedures, rules, and regulations, but if there’s something I’m not sure about I can also contact Public Health England (PHE). That’s an extra level of confidence that often surprises customers.
Of course, if I have coronavirus symptoms, I’m not allowed to work. This also applies if I live with someone who is self-isolating or is extremely vulnerable and shielding. My boss and even my workmates will watch for symptoms. If I show any symptoms, I’ll be sent home straight away and required to self-isolate.
I have a joint responsibility with my employer to keep up to date with the regulations. Thankfully, our bosses keep us informed and tell us if there are any changes that affect us, our customers, or the residents and their properties.
We know that keeping our hands clean is one of the biggest defences against COVID-19. But the list of when we must wash or sanitise our hands is surprising. It includes:
I’m fed up with singing ‘Happy Birthday’ for 20 seconds every time I wash my hands!
You don’t realise just how often you touch your nose, until you consciously must avoid it. My nose has never been so itchy.
As a member of a trade association, I can always contact them for advice about how to stay safe and keep customers safe when I’m working – and all trade bodies have produced recommendations for working safely during the pandemic. Mostly these follow government guidelines. I’ve noticed that some of our working procedures go even further, and that’s very reassuring that Hankinson really is doing all it can to ensure safety on site during the pandemic.
Our operations team contact the building user or resident 24 hours ahead of our arrival, and then again on the day to make sure it’s still okay for us to come and work. We’ll also talk to residents so that they understand what to expect before we get there.
This is one of the things I miss. We’re a friendly team, and it’s always been good to be friendly with our customers. Now we don’t shake hands anymore – and I’m not into that ‘elbow knocking’. Maybe in the future we’ll get back to the traditional tradesperson/customer relationship. I hope so.
If we’re working in a resident’s home, then we’re not allowed to be in the same room as the residents. We tell them about this before we get there and when we arrive. It’s a bit of a shame, because we don’t get to hear those stories that residents love to share. I think also that some residents, especially older residents, enjoy our company while we’re working. For the time being, that connection has gone.
It’s best to work in a well-ventilated area. So, if we’re inside, we’ll ask if we can crack a window open.
Depending on the site, I may be dressed in a whole load of personal protective equipment that makes me look more like a spaceman than a property maintenance technician. Sometimes this will be reusable PPE, other times it will be single use. We’ll risk assess the job before we start to make sure we’ve got all the right gear.
As part of the no-contact with clients’ rules, we currently don’t ask for jobs to be signed off by residents. We’ll make sure that we complete all the paperwork and that the client is happy with our work before we leave.
I used to get a lift with my workmates, but now I often travel to work on my own. If I do need to share transport, I’ll share with the same team and keep the vehicle windows open. Oh, and we use hand sanitiser before, during, and after shared journeys.
Of course, with our extra knowledge about keeping places clean and hygienic, I’m happy to share current best practices with residents and building operators. It’s not only polite, it’s info that could save lives.
You’ll notice a lot more cleaning happening on site. We’ve always been a company that is conscious about how we leave sites at the end of a working day, but now you’ll see us wiping touchpoints throughout the day – doors, handles, buttons, tools, and so on. And you can be sure that sites will be spotless when we leave for home.
Working safely during COVID-19 is the most critical business objective for us today. It’s crucial that we protect our customers and their residents, whether we are working externally or internally. It’s a fluid situation, and we ensure that we receive all appropriate alerts and pass them on to our staff promptly.
Property maintenance is essential to ensure residents are safe and assets maintain their value. A key aspect of our partnership with our customers is to ensure that while we are carrying out your property maintenance we work to at least the standards set, and in many cases our processes and procedures benefit from even stricter Hankinson working policies.
When you use Hankinson Whittle for your programmed maintenance, you can be sure of a partnership in health and safety as well as benefitting from the highest standards in property maintenance work. To find out more, don’t hesitate to contact us today.