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Returning to work – guidance for Registered Engineers

The HSE has provided the following guidance on returning to work safely

Reviewed 2nd June
Last updated 2nd June

Is it safe for me to go back to work?

The government advice is that work that cannot be done from home can continue – this includes work in other people’s home, such as plumbing, electrical and gas work.

How can I work safely in a customer’s home?

BEIS has produced guidance on ‘in home and to home’ work https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes to advise you on how to work safely.

In addition HSE has produced a guide https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/assets/docs/working-safely-guide.pdf to help you identify the risks and actions you should take to address these.

These are the actions that you should consider:

  1. Contact the householder before any visit to discuss how the work will be carried out to minimise risk for all parties.
    • Agree a fixed time for arrival and/or that you will telephone when you arrive so you can be let in safely with minimum contact.
    • Advise that, where possible, a minimum 2m distance between individuals should be maintained including when waiting for the customer to open the door.
    • Advise the areas within which you will probably be working e.g. the gas meter, the room within which the appliance to be worked upon is installed, possibly to inspect all installed gas appliances visually.
    • Ask the occupants to stay in another room, away from the work area(s) whilst the work proceeds, if possible.
  2. Consider the details of the job to be completed, this will allow you to plan ahead and bring all tools, equipment and parts required, minimise the time spent at the property and avoid the need for multiple visits to the property.
  3. 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 happy for your visit to take place.
  4. Do not shake hands with the customer or other occupants.
  5. Ask that households leave all internal doors open to minimise contact with door handles.
  6. Identify busy areas across the household where people travel to, from or through, for example, stairs and corridors, and minimise movement within these areas.
  7. Bring your own food and drink to households and have breaks outside where possible.
  8. Limit the number of workers within a confined space to maintain social distancing.
  9. On entry to the property you should wash your hands using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. Consider carrying your own hand-towel with your equipment. Wash/replace your hand-towel at end of each day/shift.
  10. Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used, and you should always carry this with you. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  11. Remember to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  12. You should wash your hands regularly whilst in the property or use your hand sanitiser.
  13. Reduce the spread of germs when you cough or sneeze by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue, or your sleeve (not your hands) if you don’t have a tissue.
  14. You should bag the tissue and take it away with you when you leave the property. Once you have bagged the tissue, you should wash your hands using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or use your hand sanitiser.
  15. To reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people, clean objects and surfaces you have touched, using your regular cleaning products. Do this on entering the property, whilst you are working and on leaving the property.
  16. Only use your own pen and do not share it with others, do not use other objects belonging to the householder whilst working in the property.
  17. Maintain good ventilation of the area you are working in; keep windows open if possible.
  18. At the end of your visit make sure that you take all personal belongings and tools with you, bag any waste, including any cleansing wipes etc. you may have used, and take it away with you. Dispose of any bagged waste in line with business process and/or Government guidance.
  19. When leaving the property, you should wash your hands using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or use your hand sanitiser.

 

What should I do if the householder won’t maintain a safe social distance when I am in their property?

Before starting work, explain to the householder about the Government’s social distancing and hygiene requirements that need to be in place for you to work safely; for both your and their safety.
Agree a fixed time for arrival and/or that you will telephone when you arrive so you can be let in safely with minimum contact.

Explain the need for social distancing; advise that where possible, a minimum of a 2m distance should be kept from those working, ask the occupants to stay in another room, away from the work area(s) whilst the work proceeds, if possible.

If the householder does not maintain a safe social distance, remind them of the current government guidance and advise that if they do not maintain this, you may be unable to continue your work.

If householder still does not maintain a safe social distance you can choose to leave the job (ensuring any unfinished work is left safe).

If you have an employer, they should have a policy in place to cover this scenario; they should discuss this with you before you attend the property. If you feel that your employer is not supporting you to maintain a safe social distance, then you can raise a concern using the HSE contact form.

Can I use the bathroom in a house I am working in?

Only use the householder’s own facilities where it is absolutely necessary and after gaining permission from the householder. Disinfect door handles, taps and toilets before and after use and ensure that you wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds; use hand sanitiser if you cannot wash your hands. Consider carrying your own hand-towel with your equipment. Wash/replace your hand-towel at end of each day/shift.

 

I’ve been asked to carry out work in a household that is self-isolating/has COVID. What should I do?

If the work is routine, i.e. is not emergency repair work, this should be postponed until after the period of self-isolation/risk has passed. The period of isolation will be at least seven days; further information on isolation periods can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

If the work is to carry out an emergency repair (for example to make a gas system/appliance safe, or ensure heating and hot water is available), then this work can be carried out. Safe social distancing and good hygiene will need to be maintained throughout the work. You should ensure that you/your employer has a detailed conversation with the household in advance to:

  • Consider the details of the job to be completed, this will allow you to plan ahead and bring all tools, equipment and parts required, minimise the time spent at the property and avoid the need for multiple visits to the property.
  • Discuss how the work will be carried out to minimise risk for all parties.
  • Agree a fixed time for arrival and/or that you will telephone when you arrive so you can be let in safely with minimum contact.
  • Advise that where possible minimum of a 2m distance should be kept from those working and that social distancing must be maintained as far as possible, including when waiting for the customer to open the door.
  • Ask the occupants to stay in another room, away from the work area(s) whilst the work proceeds, if possible.
  • The social distance and hygiene requirements during your visit. All members of the household should stay a minimum of 2 m from you, and preferably in another room. Anyone with COVID or any COVID symptoms should remain in another room for the duration of your visit.
  • Ask that households leave all internal doors open to minimise contact with door handles

On entry to the property you should:

  • wash your hands using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. Consider carrying your own hand-towel with your equipment; wash/replace your hand-towel at end of each day/shift.

    Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used, and you should always carry this with you. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol.

  • Remember to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • You should wash your hands regularly whilst in the property or use your hand sanitiser.
  • Reduce the spread of germs when you cough or sneeze by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue, or your sleeve (not your hands) if you don’t have a tissue.
  • You should bag the tissue and take it away with you when you leave the property. Once you have bagged the tissue, you should wash your hands using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or use your hand sanitiser.
  • To reduce the risk of infection, clean objects and surfaces before you start work, using your regular cleaning products Do this on entering the property, whilst you are working and on leaving the property.
  • Do not use or share pens or other objects whilst working in the household.
  • Maintain good ventilation of the area you are working in; keep windows open if possible.
  • At the end of your visit make sure that you take all personal belongings and tools with you, bag any waste, including any cleansing wipes etc. you may have used, and take it away with you. Dispose of any bagged waste in line with business process and/or Government guidance.
  • When leaving the property, you should wash your hands using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or use your hand sanitiser

 

I’ve been asked to carry out work in a household where there is a person who is extremely clinically vulnerable/shielded. What should I do?

What the Landlord must do: You should consider the balance of risk presented by the gas system, with the risk to your tenant’s health. Your assessment should consider factors such as the age, type of appliance, previous maintenance/breakdown history and date of last gas safety check etc. In some situations, this assessment may indicate that the work/gas safety check should still go ahead

  • If, after completing this assessment, you are satisfied that delaying the work/gas safety check will not put your tenant at risk, you should contact your tenant to inform them that you will delay completing the checks. You should keep records of the action taken and keep the situation under regular review, bearing in mind the factors stated above.
  • Where appropriate you must arrange for the gas safety check to take place as soon as possible after the isolation period has ended and be able demonstrate that you have taken reasonable steps to arrange and reschedule the check. We strongly advise that you keep records of all communication and correspondence with the tenant, including emails and text messages if applicable. If, after completing this assessment, you feel that delaying the gas safety check WILL put your tenant at risk, you should contact them let them know why you recommend the checks should go ahead; despite the fact they are shielded/extremely vulnerable.
    1. If they agree to allow a gas engineer into their property to carry out the safety checks/work, you should ensure that the engineer follows the latest advice on Gov.uk, including guidance on working safely - other people’s homes
    2. If your tenant declines access to the property, the Health & Safety Executive’s standard policy on dealing with tenants will apply. You should keep a record of your contact with the tenant, including where you have identified that, in your view, the gas system is at higher risk and the gas safety check should be completed as soon as possible.

In all circumstances, we strongly advise that you keep records of all communication and correspondence with the tenant, including emails and text messages if applicable.

What the engineer must do: You should conduct your own assessment of the risks before entering any property; if you have concerns that the tenants are showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) you should not enter the property and the visit should be rearranged.

On entering the property, you should be particularly vigilant in respect of social distancing and good hygiene. See working safely - other people’s homes for more guidance.

BEIS has produced guidance on ‘in home and to home’ work https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes to advise you on how to work safely.

In addition HSE has produced a guide https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/assets/docs/working-safely-guide.pdf to help you identify the risks and actions you should take to address these.

I’ve been asked to carry out work in a household where there is a person who is classed as vulnerable. What should I do?

Latest advice from government is that work can be carried out in homes of the clinically vulnerable, but workers should be particularly vigilant in respect of social distancing and good hygiene. See working safely - other people’s homes for more guidance.

What the landlord must do:
You should explain the importance of annual gas safety checks to your tenant and that the latest government advice is that work can be carried out in households that have clinically vulnerable members.

If your tenant still declines access to the property, you must be able demonstrate that you have taken reasonable steps to arrange and reschedule the gas safety check; HSE’s usual advice on gaining access to the property applies in these circumstances:

  • leave the tenant a notice stating that an attempt was made to complete the gas safety check and provide your contact details
  • write to the tenant explaining that a safety check is a legal requirement and that it is for the tenant’s own safety. Give the tenant the opportunity to arrange their own appointment
  • HSE inspectors will look for repeated attempts to complete the gas safety check, including the above suggestions; however, the approach will need to be appropriate to each circumstance.

    We strongly advise that you keep records of communication and correspondence with the tenant, including emails and text messages if applicable.

What the engineer must do: You should conduct your own assessment of the risks before entering any property; if you have concerns that the tenants are showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) you should not enter the property and the visit should be rearranged.

On entering the property, you should be particularly vigilant in respect of social distancing and good hygiene. See working safely - other people’s homes for more guidance.

BEIS has produced guidance on ‘in home and to home’ work https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes to advise you on how to work safely.

In addition HSE has produced a guide https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/assets/docs/working-safely-guide.pdf to help you identify the risks and actions you should take to address these.

Do I need to use PPE/face coverings when working in people’s homes?

Government advice is that there is not a widespread benefit from wearing PPE which should be reserved for those who need to protect against infection risks e.g. in health and social care. Instead, the best way to protect yourself and others is to regularly wash your hands and to keep at least 2 metres between you and other people.

Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should continue to do so; there is no need to wear additional PPE or a face covering.

Please see the guidance on social distancing in the workplace here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/social-distancing-in-the-workplace-during-coronavirus-covid-19-sector-guidance

Face coverings are not considered to be PPE as there is little evidence that they protect the wearer. However, if wearing a face covering makes the householder more comfortable and provides you with reassurance, you may wish to do so.

Face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact and increasing hand and surface washing. More information can be found at section 6.1 in this document:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes

 

The Householder is insisting I wear face coverings/PPE before they let me into their property. What should I do?

Government advice is that there is not a widespread benefit from wearing PPE. Instead, the best way to protect yourself and others is to use regularly wash your hands and to keep at least 2 metres between you and other people. PPE specifically for protection against COVID-19 infection is generally only required for certain healthcare activities and is not required for work in people’s homes. You can refer the householder to the relevant government guidance https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes

If the householder still doesn’t want to let you in, you should:

If the work is not essential maintenance or repair work - this work can be postponed.

Face coverings are not considered to be PPE as there is little evidence that they protect the wearer. However, if wearing a face covering makes the householder more comfortable and provides you with reassurance, you may wish to do so.

Face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact and increasing hand and surface washing. More information can be found at section 6.1 in this document:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes

  1. If there is a gas emergency situation - you should contact the gas emergency service provider on 0800 111 999. They have the power to make an unsafe situation safe, including a right of entry into premise.
  2. If the property is rented - you should advise the landlord that the tenant has refused you entry into the premises. The landlord can then follow the guidance for landlords available via the Gas Safe Register website

    https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/help-and-advice/covid-19-advice-and-guidance/landlords/

Advice for tenants:

  • I have been advised that I fall into the category of extremely clinically vulnerable (shielded) and my landlord wants to come to my home to undertake the Landlord gas safety checks, what should I do?

Government advice is that people who are extremely clinically vulnerable (shielded) should minimise all interaction between themselves and others.

If you have been advised by the government that you fall into this category, you should inform your landlord. Your landlord will need to consider the balance of risk presented by the gas system, with the risk to your health. This assessment will consider factors such as the age, type of appliance, previous maintenance/breakdown history and date of last gas safety check etc. In some situations, this assessment may indicate that the gas safety check should still go ahead to ensure your safety.

If you agree to allow a gas engineer into your home to carry out the safety checks, you should be aware that the engineer will follow the latest advice on Gov.uk, including guidance on safer working – other people’s homes.

If you decline access to your home for the gas safety checks to be undertaken, the landlord must rearrange the gas safety check to take place as soon as possible after your isolation period has ended.

Your landlord can find out more about what is expected of them in respect of gas safety checks at this time on the Gas Safe Register website.

In an emergency:
If you smell gas, or if you have concerns about the safety of your appliances, you should call the gas emergency service provider on 0800 111 999, and switch off appliances until the gas emergency supplier, or a registered gas engineer, has attended and advised that the appliances are safe to use.

  • I have been advised that I fall into the category of clinically vulnerable and my landlord wants to come to my home to undertake the Landlord gas safety checks, should I agree to this?

The latest advice from government is that work can be carried out in homes of the clinically vulnerable, this includes essential maintenance and repair work such as landlords gas safety checks.

Workers should be particularly vigilant in respect of social distancing and good hygiene when working in the homes of the clinically vulnerable. See working safely - other people’s homes for more guidance. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes