Following regular questioning and pressure from the heating industry, government have confirmed that ‘workers delivering essential services in the utilities sector, which encompasses heat, are now eligible for testing.
Stewart Clements, Director, HHIC said;
“The Heating and Hotwater Industry Council, HHIC, are pleased that government have recognised that the heating and plumbing industry carry out essential frontline work to maintain the supply of heating and hot water to UK homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. Its operation is essential to ensure people are kept safe in their homes and businesses.”
“HHIC have an open line of communication with government, in particular the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, BEIS. The current COVID-19 crisis is an ever changing, and ever moving situation which requires daily review and communication, so that we are in the best position to be able to keep our members informed.”
“Following announcements that Covid-19 testing capacity in England has been extended to all key workers and their households with symptoms. BEIS have confirmed that workers delivering essential services in the utilities sector, which encompasses heat, are now eligible for testing. The Government’s guidance remains that tradespeople entering homes should only be undertaking essential repairs and maintenance. No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild. Those with symptoms that need to return to work to undertake essential activity in the heat sector must get tested before doing so. More information, and the option to self-refer for a test, is available online at www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
HHIC together with the heating industry regularly update its advice to frontline engineers- who are currently still operating. These are based on Government recommendations, which change daily.
Work carried out in people’s homes
For example, by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.
Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.
No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.
No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.
· When discussing an appointment with your customer/s, ask if they or any occupants are self-isolating, displaying any symptoms of COVID19, and/or have received a positive diagnosis
· Where the householders are not self-isolating, displaying any symptoms, and have not been diagnosed with COVID-19, trades may attend for emergency situations, whilst exercising general best practice in line with the latest Government guidance for the public: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public, which could include additional PPE, such as disposable overalls, disposable gloves, eye protection, and suitable face mask.
· Government guidance is continually evolving, but be especially vigilant of those persons currently identified as most at risk, such as the over-70’s, and/or with underlying health issues
· As well as protecting yourself, and householders, you should also consider the welfare of any colleagues, especially if they fall into one of the vulnerable categories.
Practical steps to take when working in the field:
· On the day of the work, call ahead to your customer to ask if they or any occupants have signs of the virus, have been diagnosed, or are self-isolating, and to check that they are comfortable with your visit to take place
· Explain to your customers what you will be doing, and why, and that you will need to maintain a safe distance from them (2m or 6 steps away is current Government advice), including when waiting for the customer to open the door.
· Do not shake hands with the customer or other occupants.
· Ask if the occupants can stay in another room, away from the work area(s) whilst the work proceeds, and with permission ventilate the work area where appropriate, e.g. by opening a window
· Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, at the start of the job and after (also during the work). It is recommended to carry your own hand-towel with your equipment. Wash/replace hand-towel at end of each day/shift
· Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
· Wear suitable work gloves
· If you feel unsafe or at risk at any point, undertake a personal risk assessment and leave the premises if necessary. You can re-plan for a future date if appropriate, after ensuring everything is made safe.
· Customer/Engineer signature – is this required by the work?….can it be avoided, or an electronic copy can be sent on the day, or at a later date (use and/or sharing of pens, tablets or mobile phones may pose a risk of contamination/infection)
· Wipe down any operational rubber gloves, tools and instruments used within the premises;
· Remove and place into a plastic bag any wipes, disposable gloves and overalls used, whilst trying not to cross-contaminate onto existing clothes or persons;
· Do not touch your face;
· Ensure you then clean/wash your hands, and where possible/appropriate any reusable PPE (e.g. safety glasses), using soap and water, or use suitable hand sanitizer on hands before moving to your next job
· At the end of each day and following the appropriate local waste regulations dispose of any bagged waste in line with any existing business process and/or Government guidance
*Note- this guidance is to assist the business/individual. It does not form an official process.