Managing Maintenance Teams During a Pandemic and Beyond

Managing Maintenance Teams During a Pandemic and Beyond

Covid-19 has changed the way we do things; for on-site workers, meticulous precautions have been introduced to keep everyone safe. Now the end of the lockdown is in sight, will things just slowly go back to normal or will some of the new safety protocols remain? BESA (the Building Engineering Services Association) is urging against safety complacency as lockdown restrictions ease.

With that in mind, this blog offers practical sector-relevant guidance for managing engineers and maintenance contractors as we leave lockdowns behind.

How Has the Pandemic Changed Maintenance Visits?

Preventing the spread of Covid-19 has become central to our existence and has significantly impacted the way that maintenance work is approached. The highly transmissible nature of coronavirus has escalated the need for social distancing and strict hygiene. 

The three main issues which present challenges and difficulties for those working in the field are outlined by the ECA (Electrical Contractors Association). These are:

  • Close proximity working
  • Choices around Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)
  • Vehicle travel

What New Steps Does an Engineer Need to Take as a Result of Covid?

COVID-19 is a different type of risk to those normally faced in a workplace and is being managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering.

Maintenance worker cleaning equipment

The three most effective ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus on site and when travelling are:

  • Social distancing
  • Effective hand washing
  • Thorough cleaning of all contactable surfaces and equipment – plus preventing unnecessary sharing of items or equipment

BESA’s practical guide for Coronavirus and working on-site highlights some of the additional steps now being taken by those working out in the field. The guide covers site entry, vehicles, PPE and Public Transport, and also considers the safety issues arising from working with less staff. Examples include:

  • Staggered start times
  • Not using canteens (bringing own food)
  • Not congregating in groups
  • Regular handwashing and surface cleaning, including wiping tools and the inside of vans with anti-bacterial wipes at the end of each day
  • Not going home or travelling on public transport in overalls or work boots
  • Wearing appropriate PPE (and only using RPE where the task demands it)

Read our previous blog post on the steps you can take to improve customer communication post-Lockdown.

How Should the New Protocols be Managed?

Business owners and managers already have a multitude of roles; they now have an extra layer of accountability to keep staff safe. It is a challenging climate. Resilience and mental well-being must be factored in, since feelings of anxiety have escalated significantly during the pandemic. Businesses should consider whether an activity is essential, and if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risks of transmission and ensure staff feel safe.

There are two key areas of safety for engineering and building services contractors that will continue to require attention. These are:

  • ‘Specific Environments’ (where there may be higher risk of COVID-19 transmission); and
  • ‘Close proximity working’ (less than 2m)

New guides, drawn up with the support of a COVID-19 Expert Panel made up of BESA and ECA safety practitioners, provide the relevant guidance for both. The guides (COVID-19 and Engineering Services: guidance GN1 and GN2) are available on the ECA website.

Other practical considerations include:

  • Monitoring the appropriate wearing, maintenance and disposal of all PPE
  • The use of screens or barriers to separate people from each other (e.g. during vehicle travel)
  • Using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (ensuring each person only works with a few others)
  • Continuing to recommend the use of face coverings (e.g. a cotton mask) in enclosed spaces to provide some protection to others
  • Reminding employees regularly that wearing PPE/RPE must not lead to unwanted changes in behaviour that will undermine social distancing and hygiene measures
  • Offering awareness and training

Download our Covid-19 Mobile forms and ensure your engineers stay compliant when on-site.

The Future Landscape

Rigorous safety protocols have been implemented to protect staff and customers and many of these will be around for a while. Now is not the time to let standards slip. We must ensure a cautious stance on the road back to normality.

Prior to Covid-19, labour flexibility, digital transformation and operational excellence dominated as key aspects of the future of work. These priorities will return, but safety will stay high on the agenda. While it is hard to imagine right now, the COVID crisis will end and we will emerge. What we can be sure of is this – there will be permanent changes to our behaviours at work. Ultimately, the safety of the workforce is paramount, and Covid-19 has been a stark reminder of this.

Make sure your operations are running smoothly, in spite of any extra steps you need to take or measures you find in place, with Joblogic job management software. Our software is an ideal fit for companies of all sizes, whether you’re involved in electrical maintenance or plumbing, or even more specific fields such as stairlift maintenance or drinks equipment installation.

Book a demo with one of our experts today.

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