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Coronavirus: How to keep safe whilst working

Last updated: 6th August 2020

For FAQ’s about coronavirus and using Rated People, head here.

For information on government support for trade businesses, head here.

It’s important that we all follow the government guidelines on reducing the spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus. So, we brought together some top tips for tradespeople with the latest government advice, to help you keep yourself and your customers safe whilst you’re working.

Since Boris Johnson’s announcement in mid-May that “anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction, should be actively encouraged to go to work”, the government has launched a Business Support campaign that promotes the latest business safety guidance and information about the financial support available.

The new safety guidance is broken down according to type of workplace. The key messages for the construction industry are around staying in fixed teams, keeping a safe distance and minimising contact:

Banner messages: keep workers in fixed teams, stay a safe distance apart, limit face to face contact

The campaign also defines messages for tradespeople working in people’s homes, which are geared towards only working around people that are isolating in emergencies and never if you are symptomatic:

Don't work in a home that is isolating except in an emergency

The government has also published more detailed guidance for tradespeople working in people’s homes. We have summarised the key points below, or you can read the full government guidance document here. You can also find separate guidance for home moves here.

Going to work (if you can’t work from home)

  • You should avoid public transport to travel if at all possible.
  • No work should be carried out if you or someone in your own household has coronavirus symptoms.
  • No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless your work is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household. If your work is to remedy a direct risk, you can read about the additional steps you must take to ensure your safety and your customer’s safety, here.

Manage risk so you can work safely

  • Carry out a risk assessment to make sure you’re doing everything you can to eliminate the risk of COVID-19.
  • If you’re a self-employed tradesperson or you have fewer than 5 people working for you, you won’t have to produce any paperwork, but you should share the results with your customers.
  • If you’re a larger business with 5 or more people, you’ll need to consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by your employees. Once the risk assessment has been done, you should display the government’s certificate on your website and also share it with customers and your employees. You can find the template on page 7 of the government’s PDF, here.
  • As part of risk mitigation, assess whether all visits to customers’ homes are essential or if work can be postponed. If you can, cut down on the number of visits to a customer by having phone or video calls with them instead.

How to prepare for a job

Keep in contact with the homeowner, so they’re confident that you’re working to keep them safe. You should:

  • Let them know what actions you’re taking to protect them, as well as yourself.
  • Inform them if you have hayfever, allergies or respiratory conditions that could potentially make you sneeze, so they’re not worried when you do.
  • You should agree with them how you’ll go about your work safely before you turn up, particularly how you will maintain the the 2-metre distancing rule. When you’re working in a household where somebody is clinically vulnerable, but hasn’t been asked to shield, for example, the home of someone over 70, you should make arrangements with them to avoid any face-to-face contact, for example, when answering the door.
  • Ask them if they want you to take any extra precautions beyond what you’ve discussed, especially if they’re classed as more vulnerable.
  • You could also ask the homeowner to clear the room that you’re working in of any furniture, if they’re able to. For example, if you’re a painter/decorator, ask them to take down any photos from the walls.

Whilst it’s important to keep in touch with your customers, you should still avoid close contact as much as possible. Some tradespeople have told us that they’re asking for photos or a video of the problem that needs fixing, so they can provide more quotes over the phone. Our Chat feature is great for this, too – find out more here.

Protective products to bring on a job

Tissues: to cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze. If your hands are full, or it’s not safe to use your hands, you can sneeze into the crook of your arm.

A plastic bag or bin liner: put all used tissues in the plastic bag immediately and wash your hands afterwards – this will save anyone else from coming into contact with potential germs.

Hand sanitiser: using soap and water is best, but if it’s not available then use hand sanitiser.

A thermos and water bottle: bring your own drinks with you if you’re working inside a house, to reduce contact with the homeowner.

How to keep safe whilst you’re on a job

Regularly wash your hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds – liquid soap is better than bar soap.

Use hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water aren’t available.

Always wash your hands as soon as you get home from work.

If you happen to have protective gear, like safety goggles or a dust mask, you might want to use them, too.

  • Maintain the 2-metre distance from any household occupants at all times. You can read the government’s tips for maintaining social distancing here.
  • Clean regularly touched objects and surfaces using your regular cleaning products to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
  • Also, if the weather allows, keep your windows open for fresh air and to keep clean air moving through the room.
  • To minimise the number of people making deliveries to the homeowner’s property, bulk order products from the same supplier, where you can.

Where social distancing guidelines can’t be followed, you should think about whether that activity needs to continue and take further actions to help reduce the risk if it does. For example, washing hands even more frequently, using back-to-back or side-to-side working instead of face-to-face where possible and using screens and barriers to separate people from each other.

How to maintain social distancing in someone’s home

  • If it isn’t possible to maintain social distancing while working in the home then extra attention needs to be paid to equipment, cleaning and hygiene to reduce risk.
  • Working materials, such as tools or domestic appliances, should be assigned to an individual and not shared if possible. If they need to be shared, they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people.
  • Ask that households leave all internal doors open to minimise contact with door handles.
  • Identify busy areas across the household where people travel to, from or through, for example, stairs and corridors, and minimise movement within these areas.
  • Bring your own food and drink to households and have breaks outside where possible.
  • If there is more than one person working in a home, limit the number of tradespeople working within a confined space and use a fixed pairing system if you have to work near each other, for example, during two-person assembly or maintenance. Employers should introduce fixed pairing and allocate the same tradespeople to a household for repetitive work.

What to do if you feel ill, or someone in your household is ill

Government advice is: if you have symptoms of coronavirus, you’ll need to stay at home for at least 7 days. Find out more about when you can stop self isolation here. If you live with someone who has symptoms, you’ll need to stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person in the home started having symptoms. For advice on what you should do to recover, read the NHS guidance here.

You should also let the homeowner know if you feel ill. Make it clear to them that you’re self-isolating to keep them safe, and let them know when you’ll be back in touch to rearrange the work.

Government help for your business

The government recently announced a package of measures to support small businesses during this time. This includes cash grants, sick pay cover and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which you can apply for now. Read more here.

What to do now

  1. Keep an eye on your emails and check our website for the latest updates to government advice and support. We’ll keep this article up-to-date with the latest information.
  2. Sign up to our Protected Payments service. It’s a secure, digital payment method which gets rid of the need to meet with the homeowner in person to collect payment. Plus, your money is protected should the job be delayed, for example if either of you have to self-isolate. Find out more here.

We’ll continue to keep new job leads coming in for you to choose from. We’ve seen a rise in homeowners looking for gardeners, tree surgeons and more – check out the latest job leads here.

Note: Countries may approach the different phases of lockdown differently. This guidance is in line with the UK government’s advice and is being followed in England. See the specific government websites for any differences.

If there’s a lockdown announced in the regional area(s) that you work or live in, in addition to the national lockdown, the government says that you must follow all instructions from the relevant local authority. You can find out which areas currently have special restrictions in place on Gov.uk.

Read more: Guidance for staying safe on a construction site.

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