As a responsible employer and as the founder of a business that works in people’s homes, health and safety is an absolute priority.
The home services sector is reliant on an excellent reputation. A commitment to safe operations is key to building customer trust, as well as, of course, ensuring all jobs are undertaken in the safest possible way.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March that focus on health and safety was heightened dramatically. Pimlico was classed as an essential business by the government and, therefore, able to continue to operate during the lockdown.
We focused our operations on providing emergency home services to customers in central and greater London, ensuring our team of engineers could help householders facing potential home disasters such as a broken boiler or loss of water.
These events can be a nightmare, even at the best of times, but during a lockdown when people can’t leave their homes, we needed to be on hand quickly.
We prioritised jobs for the elderly and vulnerable and introduced a free service for NHS workers, providing parts and labour free of charge. We didn’t want frontline care workers, who are the heroes of this pandemic, to have to come home after a long and challenging shift to have to deal with a blocked pipe or broken shower. To date we have done £50,000 worth of work for NHS staff, for which I am immensely proud.
To ensure we were able to maintain our services we quickly implemented new safety protocols to keep our people and our customers safe. For our workforce, we had two key considerations. Our engineers and our office staff.
Therefore, we immediately instigated a review of our operations and, led by our award-winning health and safety manager, Gary Poynter, to put in place measures that would keep our people as safe as possible.
We followed government and public health guidelines to the letter and constantly reviewed our procedures as the advice evolved. We also applied a strong dose of common sense to our approach, to ensure social distancing and hygiene measures were stringent and effective.
For our engineers, we ensured, and continue to do so, that when they attend a job at a customer’s premises, they wear protective gloves, an appropriate face mask, use hand sanitiser gel and keep the recommended two-metre distance.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is always part of our engineers’ kit, but we immediately increased our stock holdings to ensure every job booked in could be completed without concerns about safety equipment. In addition, each of Pimlico’s fleet of VW Transporter vans are fitted with wash basins with running water to further enhance our hygiene procedures.
On arrival at a job, customers are asked to open the door to our engineer and then step back to enable them to enter and undertake the work and the same when they leave. The engineer will also be informed by our contact centre if a customer is in self-isolation or is shielding within the property. It has proven to be a well-received process that gives our customers and our engineers confidence they can remain safe during a job.
A number of our head office staff, such as those in marketing & PR and some account functions, for example, could work from home, but our frontline contact centre team, which is the heart beat of the business, had to be in the office.
We altered the design of our call centre by sectioning off workstations to ensure social distancing and we brought in additional hygiene measures, which have formed the basis of our policies moving forward after lockdown.
Ensuring their safety in our offices was obviously key, but we also helped them outside of work. Being based in central London many of our staff use buses and the Tube to get to work, but with guidance to avoid public transport we laid on free parking so they could drive to the office. We also provided free food with hot and cold drinks 24 hours a day, which would also save them additional trips to the shops.
As with all businesses with in-house canteens, we had to close ours for the period of the lockdown so worked with an outside supplier to make sure our team had access to food and drink.
In order to get the company ready for additional staff to return to the office after being on furlough, we carried out a further comprehensive Covid-19 risk assessment, which is now displayed on noticeboards around our premises. In addition to this, we have completed the government’s online assessment form and have uploaded a document to confirm that Pimlico is compliant with this appraisal.
Throughout our offices we have displayed ‘Two metre social distancing’ and ‘Staying Covid-19 secure in 2020’ on every office door and made hand sanitiser gel available to use at staff entrances, along with hazard tape on the kitchen floor at two metre distances. We have also made gloves and masks available for those staff that want to use them.
All of these measures have reassured our staff and made them feel comfortable about coming to work.
The seismic impact of the pandemic creates what a lot of people are calling a ‘new normal’. There is no doubt that it will take some time to get used to, but led by solid health and safety measures all our workforce can play their part in reducing the risk of the virus spreading.
Charlie Mullins OBE is founder and chairman of Pimlico Plumbers
By Iris Cepero, editor on 01 March 2013
Iris Cepero interviews Dr Christa Sedlatsche, director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).