Coronavirus : striking a balance for safety
Some of our customers have raised questions or concerns about how we are handling repairs during the coronavirus ‘lockdown’. A few people are frustrated that we aren’t able to deal with problems that are not categorised as emergencies. Others are worried that we are continuing to make home visits at this time and would prefer us to stop all repairs while the country is in ‘lockdown’.
We want to reassure everyone that the safety of our customers, communities and our employees is our number one concern. That is why we have stopped all but the most urgent and essential home visits until further notice.
One of the challenges we face is that some home emergencies – such as gas leaks, electrical faults and structural damage – can put people at risk. We have legal and moral responsibilities to fix these issues as quickly as possible and make homes safe to live in. But we also have to do everything we can to avoid spreading coronavirus during visits as this creates a new risk.
We are closely following official guidance on this issue – from the government and other relevant organisations such as the Regulator of Social Housing. When we do feel it necessary to carry out in-home repairs we are taking the following precautions:
- Carrying out a proper risk-assessment before arranging any home visits. This includes finding out how serious the fault is and asking questions about the risk of infection at the home.
- Asking customers to keep a safe distance from our operatives at all times, including asking people to stay out of any room we are working in.
- Ensuring that our staff are equipped with protective clothing and equipment when making home visits.
- Asking customers to provide hand-washing facilities for our staff when they arrive and leave.
The most important change however is reducing the number of on-site repairs overall.
We carried out just 156 repair visits during the week of 24 March to 31 March 2020. That compares with around 900 a week previously. So we have reduced repair visits by over 80% since ‘lockdown’.
The vast majority of the repairs we have made were either plumbing or electrical faults, plus a small number of structural repairs to roofs, glass and brickwork. All of these issues risked putting customers at risk of harm and could not be ignored.
We are continuing to keep the situation under review and will take further steps as necessary to protect everyone concerned.