Not everyone who has an essential job to keep us all safe during the coronavirus pandemic is immediately obvious. Gas engineers have a vital job, ensuring that heating systems remain safe at a time when most of us are spending more time than ever in our homes.
A fault on a central heating system could lead to potentially fatal carbon monoxide poisoning, so advice from government, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Gas Safe Register is that it safety checks must continue during the coronavirus pandemic.
believe housing Gas Engineer Paul Douthwaite has shared his thoughts on working to keep customers safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
“From the moment I wake up in the morning, my working day is very different to how it was just three months ago. My wife currently works from home, while also caring for our daughter, and I must make sure that every decision I take during my working day is in the interest of my family as well as our customers.
“Ordinarily I start each day by putting on clean uniform and complete my van check at 7.30am. Now, I also take stock of the personal protective equipment (PPE) that I have on my van to ensure that I have enough to complete the day. I also speak to my team leader to discuss the day’s work I have planned and to make sure there are no special instructions for any of the jobs I have in my diary for the day.
During times of normality I would check the address of my first job and head off to the property. Now before I set off, I ring the tenant to find out more details of the repair and to see if I can fix the fault over the phone.
The first job I have planned is a boiler fault, which means I must attend as it can’t be repaired over the phone
“The tenant is expecting me when I arrive, and they have left the back door open for me while they waited in the lounge to maintain a safe social distance. Before entering the property, I put on the necessary PPE and head into the kitchen to repair the boiler.
“It takes around an hour to repair the boiler and carry out the necessary safety checks. Our planner also informed me that the home was due an annual gas service. So, while I was there, I also carried out the annual safety check and service.
This means an engineer doesn’t have to attend in two weeks; reducing the risk of spreading coronavirus, saving time, and another set of PPE that would have been required to complete the visit.
“Once the repair is complete, I wipe clean any surfaces that I’ve touched, record everything I’ve done digitally and sign the paperwork on behalf of the tenant before leaving.
When I go back to the van, I need to remove my PPE and dispose of it. I have separated my van into two sections: a clean section and a dirty section. The dirty section is where I put used PPE into bags to take to our waste facility whenever I am passing.
“After each job I also wipe my phone clean with antiseptic wipes and clean my hands with sanitiser.
“The next job in my diary is a fault with a toilet not flushing. Again, I contact the customer before attending and ask them to carry out some simple checks to see if they could repair it themselves.
“The elderly customer was very nervous about me having to enter their property and had been advised to shield from the public for 12 weeks from the start of the lockdown period.
“I spend around 20 minutes on the phone to her before I attend, trying to repair the fault. Then, once I realise it couldn’t be fixed over the phone, I reassured her that we are doing everything we possibly can to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. “The toilet was not flushing and it’s the only toilet they have, so again, it’s absolutely essential to attend.
“Like every job I attend, I put on my PPE kit before I enter the property and maintained social distancing throughout the visit, wiping down every surface that I touch.
“In total, today I completed three plumbing repairs, five boiler repairs, two gas services and a repair to a solid fuel boiler. I’ve also helped two tenants remedy problems themselves following my instructions over the phone.
“They were all essential or emergency repairs and as a result I have used 26 gloves, 11 paper suits, 12 masks, 25 shoe covers, half a pack of wipes and half a bottle of sanitiser – protecting us all.
“In every property I have been thanked for attending and have listened to compliments from a lot of customers for how they have been treated by believe housing staff: from the welfare calls they’ve received to the extra measures we’ve put in place as a business to make sure people feel as safe as possible during this awful experience we’re all going through.
“I have also noticed that an increasing number of our customers have felt lonely as they have been on their own for weeks without any form of human contact and felt rewarded that I was able to provide some emotional support for them in the short time that I was in their property, albeit from another room.
“Once my jobs for the day are complete, at around 4.30pm it’s time to head home. On a normal day, I would be greeted at the door by my daughter. But during these times, I have to explain to her that she can’t hug me when I come home. Instead, I have to take my uniform off and put it straight in the washing machine then shower before I can be within two metres of my wife and daughter.
“Working this way was very challenging at first, but it has quickly become normal. As a repairs and maintenance team, we have different goals every day and high standards when it comes to caring for our customers and staff. But I’m happy to say we are achieving those standards and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
If you have any concerns about a repairs appointment due to the coronavirus pandemic, please call 0300 1311 999, email firstname.lastname@example.org , or through our online form, to discuss how we can help.