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Coronavirus advice for consumers

The coronavirus pandemic brings with it many challenges – ones we have never faced before – and so a lot of uncertainty. The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has put together the following advice for consumers who need the services of a plumbing or heating engineer during the pandemic. Though it should be noted the situation can and will change daily, so it is imperative we adapt to the latest Government advice. 

As it stands, those who work in the oil, gas, electricity and water (including sewerage) industries are classed as key workers. This includes the entire supply chain and so, a number of plumbing and heating engineers. We expect the majority will be working in emergency situations only. Therefore, it is not ‘business as usual’ for the majority of domestic plumbing and heating professionals.  

Safety first

You should only leave the house for one of four reasons: 

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible. 
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household. 
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.  
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

 

This information applies to plumbing and heating engineers and so, if you need a tradesperson to enter your home, there is a potential risk of coronavirus transmission to either parties. 

In these unprecedented times, you and your tradesperson have certain obligations to each other. The first (and most important) is to look out for the health and safety of each other. 

Therefore:

  • If you have symptoms of coronavirus, have been in contact with an infected person or a member of your family has the virus, you should be self isolating and you must tell your installer not to visit your property. 
  • Be aware that non-essential works such as bathroom refits will be cancelled. 
  • If your work is cancelled, please note that it is to protect you as well as your installer (and their vulnerable clients). Your installer is putting you first, and at the risk of their own livelihood.  
  • All works are at your installer’s discretion. They are under no obligation to enter your home if they feel it is not safe. 
  • Your installer should protect you by only going to work if they are well and not required to self-isolate. 

 

During this period, engineers will be taking additional safely precautions when entering your home. For instance the CIPHE has advised all its members to assume that the premises they are working in and the system they are working on contain the virus. Please don’t be offended when they prepare themselves appropriately. This will include:

  • Using social distancing measures, such as keeping 2 metres away from those in your household.
  • No handshakes.
  • Handwashing as soon as on the premises, before leaving and whenever necessary.
  • Extended use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) wherever reasonably possible. Your installer may turn up on your doorstep wearing safety glasses, gloves and a face mask.
  • The use of disposable items such as gloves. 
  • Refusing tea / coffee or refreshments.
  • Cleaning their tools properly at the start and finish of any job, especially before they return them to a tool bag or vehicle.
  • Changing clothes immediately when returning home (maybe even upon leaving a property) and ensuring they are laundered.

 

Pricing

It is worth noting that engineers are not working under normal circumstances. 

  • If you need to call an engineer out make sure you have spoken about costs - even your regular engineer may need to increase prices slightly to cover additional PPE, cleaning and disposable items. Never employ a tradesperson without knowing what it will cost you.  
  • Costs may be in the form of an agreed cost for the whole job, a per hour cost, call out charges or costs for specialist equipment. Do not go forward with an open-ended cost.

 

Finding an engineer

  • If you have a regular plumbing or heating engineer for yearly servicing and other works, they are more likely to come out to you. They know you as a client and your system, so have a better idea of any potential risks or precautions they need to take. 
  • If you do not have a regular engineer, or your regular engineer cannot attend, always ensure you are employing a professional tradesperson. Members of the CIPHE are vetted for qualifications and experience; they also abide by a Code of Professional Standards. You can find one online at www.ciphe.org.uk.

 

Plumbing and heating emergencies

The CIPHE is anticipating a rise in certain plumbing and heating issues due to coronavirus:

  • Blocked toilets, drains and sewers caused by people flushing unsuitable items due to the toilet roll shortage
  • Landlords finding it harder to comply with Gas Safety Regulations, due to a lack of engineers and issues gaining access if tenants are self-isolating
  • Householders having general issues calling out plumbing and heating engineers in emergency and breakdown situations – especially if in self-isolation or a lock down situation. 

 

The CIPHE has issued advice to consumers on dealing with blocked toilets in particular here: Wet wipe woes

For up to date infomation on the Gas Safety Regulations visit: https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/

Plumbing emergencies can cause a lot of damage as well as pose a significant risk to the elderly and vulnerable. It can be vital they are dealt with quickly. Make sure you check in with older relatives and neighbours (on the phone or while taking into account social distancing) to make sure their heating and hot water is working adequately. 

For plumbing emergencies (including what to do if a pipe bursts or you can smell gas), please visit our plumbing emergency advice page

It is certainly not recommended as standard best practice, but if you have a plumbing emergency during in the Covid-19 related period of lockdown, or during a period of self-isolation within your household, give your trusted plumber or heating engineer a ring to see if there is any professional guidance they can offer over the telephone. 

To find a professional plumbing or heating engineer visit www.ciphe.org.uk