How To Safely Get Back To Work
The changes to lockdown restrictions have elicited equal measures of hope and confusion. For tradespeople who work in people’s homes, lockdown has been hard. However, with the new rules in place, more tradespeople can begin the process of getting back to work.
What Are The New Rules
The changes to lockdown now allow for tradespeople to work in other people’s homes. This comes under the category of people who can’t work from home, should go back to work if it is safe. For a wide range of tradespeople, it is possible to get back to work.
There are some notable exceptions to note.
- You should not work if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.
- You should not work in a house where anyone has COVID-19 symptoms.
- You should not work in a home where a shielded individual resides unless it is for an emergency.
What Can You Do To Stay Safe
The government have issued extensive guidance for tradespeople who work in other people’s homes. There is a lot of information in there. Some of the key advice about keeping both workers and clients safe are as follows.
Frequent Hand Washing – With Soap
One of the most effective ways of reducing the spread of COVID-19 is with frequent hand washing, with soap. The soap destroys the outer layer of the virus. To be effective, you should wash for at least 20 seconds, which is longer than you think. You should wash every part of your hands carefully.
You can find the NHS guide to handwashing here. If you have a team of employees, it is wise to display this notice prominently. When you’re done washing, you should dry your hands as well. If hand washing facilities are not available, then you should use hand sanitiser instead.
Hand washing should be more frequent than usual.
Staying a minimum of two metres away from other people reduces the spread of the virus. So, as far as possible, you need to try and maintain this distance while working. It can be helpful to use barriers to mark appropriate distances or, even to help prevent transmission.
Cleaning business staff will have to be extra diligent to ensure safety. Any surface should be cleaned down with you usual disinfectant or surface cleaner. You should clean before you start work as well as when you have finished. Remember that the virus can survive on metal and other smooth surfaces for extended periods.
Assess Your Workforce
If you manage a team, you need to do a review of their risk levels. If a member of your organisation has a risk factor, like a respiratory illness, then you need to seriously consider alternative options for them.
If your workers need to work in teams, make sure you don’t move people between groups. Try to keep teams to two people only. Then keep those two people together for all team jobs. This will reduce the chance of the virus spreading within your workers.
Minimise Time Spent
You should spend as little time as possible in the home of your client. To facilitate this, it might be worth making checklists. You need to make sure you take everything you need in with you. This is to reduce trips to your van and back. You also then need to work as efficiently as possible.
Clear Communication With The Homeowner
Communication with the homeowner is going to be vital. Before you start work in a client’s home, you need to ask if anyone in their household has symptoms of the coronavirus. If the answer is yes, you must reschedule the job. You also need to identify if any members of the household are vulnerable or shielded. If they are shielded, you should not work in the home. If they are vulnerable, you need to minimise contact as much as possible.
You should also inform the householder of the need for social distancing. Inform them of any measures you will be taking and ask for their support. You should ask them to keep the windows open in the home while you are there.
Try to get as many details as are reasonably possible over the phone before you enter the home. If you need to have a face to face conversation, try to do it outside the home.
Have A PPE Policy
The government are not advising the use of PPE above and beyond that which you would already use. The most effective steps are to maintain distance and to wash hands and surfaces.
If you employ workers and you want them to wear masks you have to provide them. You should also provide training on how to don and doff them safely.
Whatever you decide, you should have clear reasoning behind your decision. Make sure you can clearly explain your thinking, as it is likely that clients will ask.
Public opinion on PPE polarised. According to a poll by an Ovenu, an oven valeting franchise, 80% of households object the idea of tradespeople wearing PPE, while 18% support it. This could be because people do not believe that PPE is effective. It may also be because they do not want tradespeople to detract PPE resources away from the NHS.
However, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention does recommend the use of face masks, even for healthy people. So it is well worth considering. Whatever your business decision on PPE, make sure you have made your reasoning clear and well documented for client and employee peace of mind.
Training Courses To Consider
If you want to reassure, yourself, your clients and your employees, you and your team could take an Infection Control And Prevention Course. Several providers are offering online courses. You should currently be able to find a course you can undertake for free as the skills funding agency is providing funding.
What If You Can’t Work Safely?
For some tradespeople, returning to work may still not be on the cards. If that is you, then be aware that support for tradespeople, from the government, is still in place. The first payments for self-employed workers should be getting made soon if they haven’t already been. These payments will be backdated to include the beginning of lockdown with a maximum amount of £7,500.
The Job Retention Scheme, or furlough scheme, has been extended until October. Workers who have been furloughed will continue to receive 80% of their monthly wages up to £2,500. However, the government have stated that from August, employers will be asked to contribute to the costs.
There may also be steps towards transitioning worker back. This could include part-time working while furloughed. The details have yet to be confirmed. If this is something you are going to be relying on, then do keep an eye out for updates.
To summarise, the furlough scheme will remain unchanged until August. It will then continue in some form until October.
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