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Live updates: How is the plumbing industry reacting to Coronavirus?

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Over the last few weeks, the situation regarding COVID-19 has escalated. How is the plumbing & heating industry dealing with the coronavirus pandemic?

 

There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus, so if you are showing any of the symptoms, you will need to stay in isolation, away from other people, until you have recovered.

 

The latest advice is that you should stay at home for 14 days if you have either a high temperature or a new, continuous cough.

 

While those who work in offices or similar environments can work from home, tradespeople obviously have to be out and about to continue working, which can pose problems. How has the industry reacted to the situation?

 

Wednesday 1 April

 

Martin Lewis tweets…

 

 

Open for business

 

Pump Technology Ltd says it is open for business and still has huge stocks of domestic, commercial, wastewater pumping, sewage or drainage pumps that it can dispatch, even with some staff now working from home.

 

National Pet Month

 

 

Covering wages

 

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and Unite the Union have agreed a temporary solution to cover wages paid to operatives in the building engineering sector during the Covid-19 lockdown.

 

Workers are normally guaranteed wages equivalent to 37.5 hours in any normal week under the terms of the HVAC National Agreement, which is co-signed by BESA on behalf of employers and Unite, which represents the workforce.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to wholesale closures of sites and dramatically reduced workloads. As a result, the two parties have agreed temporary arrangements in line with the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This will allow BESA employers, who use the National Agreement, to agree alternative arrangements with their staff to cover this unprecedented period.

 

This temporary arrangement will be in place for an initial period of 12 weeks.

 

GROHE suspends production

 

GROHE has suspended production at its manufacturing site in Portugal until 12 April and is now running adjusted production schedules at its German sites. A further GROHE manufacturing site in Thailand is still operational but following strict health and safety procedures.

 

Learning from home

 

 

Tuesday 31 March

 

HVAC not the problem

 

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems must be allowed to play their important role in helping essential services deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the UK’s F Gas register REFCOM.

 

It refuted rumours that air conditioning and ventilation could help to spread the virus adding that these were completely unfounded and not backed up by any scientific evidence.

 

Speaking on a webinar hosted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), Head of REFCOM Graeme Fox, said cooling and ventilation systems were not the problem, but rather they were part of the solution.

 

 

Monday 30 March

 

The Mental Health Foundation has compiled advice to help you, your friends and your family to look after your mental health.

 

Pimlico pledges free emergency work for NHS staff in London

 

Through Pimlico’s 24-hour Emergency Response Service, the company has already completed boiler repairs and electrical work for a number of NHS staff, predominately out-of-hours, to fit in with health workers’ shift patterns.

 

Founder Charlie Mullins OBE said: “I am keen to do what we can to help our NHS heroes by taking away some of the stress of dealing with a home emergency. We have already helped a number of NHS staff since we introduced the free service who have been extremely grateful for all the support they are receiving from the public and businesses.

 

“I am also immensely proud of our emergency response team who are ensuring we can respond to call-outs from NHS staff at any time of the day or night as quickly as possible. It is heartening to see how businesses and individuals are coming together to help each other and in particular those at the front line of defeating the virus.”

 

CIPHE welcomes government support scheme

 

CIPHE has welcomed the measures announced by the government last week to support self-employed workers.

 

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a unique set of measures last week. The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme will provide direct cash grants of 80% of profits, up to £2,500 per month for at least three months.

 

The scheme will be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. To qualify, more than half of your income in these periods must come from self-employment.

 

Kevin Wellman, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), said: “We are delighted that the Government has listened to our recommendations, put forward via the Construction Industry Council (CIC). The bodies involved in the CIC have worked tirelessly to put the health, wellbeing and financial security of those in the construction industry at the forefront of the Government’s Covid-19 response.”

 

 

Thursday 26 March

 

Can copper destroy COVID-19?

SANHA and Copper Alliance say that surfaces with a certain copper content kill bacteria and viruses in sometimes as little as 90 minutes.

By contrast, researchers at the National Institutes of Health virology laboratory in Montana found that SARS-CoV2, the strain that causes COVID-19, survived the longest—up to three days—on plastic and stainless steel, suggesting that surfaces in hospitals or steel poles on public transit could be places where people pick up the illness. Just a single droplet from a cough or sneeze can carry an infectious dose of a virus.

SANHA said: “Nobody knows (if copper have helped prevent the current situation) for certain. However, its properties are unmistakable, and judging by the effects COVID-19 has on not only human health but also on the economy, any ostensibly higher up-front cost pales to nothing.

“Drinking water is another hygienically critical area. While water as such does not transmit coronaviruses and much of the piping is hardly ever touched, having unlimited, completely maintenance-free piping and fittings with anti-microbial properties that are simultaneously ideally suited for contact with water sounds like an excellent idea to many.”

A study from 2015 found that a different coronavirus (229E) could still infect a human lung cell after five days of being on materials like Teflon, ceramic, glass, silicone rubber, and stainless steel. But on copper alloys, the coronavirus was rapidly inactivated.

 

Plumbing diary

Rhiannon shares her latest plumbing diary and discusses finishing college for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus – click here to read it now.

 

Building services firms are helping to save lives, says BEIS

The building engineering industry is providing a critical service by ensuring buildings can continue to operate as normal and support essential operations such as the NHS and food suppliers in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The important status of engineers who maintain the reliability of heating, hot water, ventilation, electrical and building management systems during the coronavirus crisis was confirmed by a BEIS official during a webinar hosted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).

BEIS confirmed that building maintenance should continue as normal, subject to compliance with Public Health England guidance, the government’s social distancing policy and the site operating guidance published by the Construction Leadership Council.

 

Wolseley shares branch opening hours

 

Wolseley has a dedicated web page updating users about branch opening times and temporary closures due to the coronavirus.

 

Wednesday 25 March

 

Working during the Coronavirus crisis quiz

Try our quiz, based on the latest advice from the HHIC. Full advice and much more information here.

 

 

Grant UK shares FAQs

Grant has posted these FAQs on its website to help customers.

 

#SelfIsolationInspiration

 

We asked plumbers to share the things they’ve been doing now they have a bit more time on their hands – and they didn’t disappoint! Take a look at our #SelfIsolationInspiration and get involved yourself on social media.

 

Selco closes branches

 

Branches of Selco Builders Warehouse will close for the next three weeks due to the COVID-19 situation.

Chief Executive Howard Luft said the welfare of customers, colleagues and suppliers was paramount. He added: “We are living in unprecedented times and I’m certain this is the right and responsible decision for everyone connected with Selco.”

Any customers with outstanding delivery or Click & Collect orders will be contacted by their local branch.

 

Tuesday 24 March

 

Ideal Boilers has announced it is shutting down business until further notice.

 

CIPHE is calling on the Government to help protect the livelihoods of the self-employed.

 

CEO Kevin Wellman said: “There are approximately 200,000 individuals engaged in the UK plumbing and heating industry, with 85% of those operating as sole traders or in companies of five individuals or fewer. The new restrictions effectively cease everyday plumbing and heating works.

 

“While we recognise the grave importance of social distancing and stopping the spread of coronavirus, there is also an urgent need to protect the livelihoods of those not covered by the Government’s packages seemingly so far aimed at larger businesses.

 

“Sole traders are the lifeblood of our industry and will be at the forefront of emergency works to protect the safety, health and welfare of the public. Those who do engage in emergency works risk the health of themselves and their families to keep the vulnerable safe.

 

“In many instances they are unsung heroes who support the mantra ‘Prevention is better than cure’. There will come a time when the country recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and will look to members of the plumbing and heating industry for services and support.

 

“Without extending support for them with immediate effect, the Government risks finding they are no longer there.”

 

Emergency callouts can still be undertaken, but anything which can be put off should be, says Michael Gove.

Over nine in 10 engineering services businesses (93 per cent) say they are ‘concerned or very concerned’ about the impact of coronavirus on their business over the next six months, according to initial responses to a major new ECA / BESA / SELECT engineering services survey.

 

Following last night’s updated guidelines issued by the Prime Minister, Selco Builders Warehouse has closed its branches today and is seeking clarification to find out whether it will be allowed to continue to operate during this period.

Wolseley and Graham have taken the same measure.

Specflue has also closed its doors.

Monday 23 March

 

The Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) has issued some advice to heating engineers on working during the Coronavirus crisis. They are:

 

Practical steps to take when working in the field:

 

Job completion

 

HIP has launched the #SelfIsolationInspiration challenge – here’s The Peaky Plumber’s attempt. Get involved on social media!

Roman Showers says it has introduced a number of measures to protect its staff, customers and business partners. They are:

 

Friday 20th March

 

The government has classified plumbing and heating workers working in utilities, communication and financial services as key workers. As such, the children of these workers will be prioritised for education provision.

 

The government’s advice states that parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response include those in working in the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors, including sewerage.

 

The government’s advice stresses that every child who can be safely cared for at home should be, but that key workers who cannot keep their child safe at home will be prioritised for education provision.

 

John Thompson, CEO of APHC, said: “If plumbers and heating engineers weren’t allowed into properties or attend sites to fix breakages this could have led to there being dangerous heating systems and unsafe drinking water and sanitation facilities.”

 

“Plumbing and heating employers are able to inform their employees that their role as a plumbing and heating engineer is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service and therefore are eligible for education provision.

 

“If your or your employees’ school is closed then you can contact your local authority, who will seek to redirect you to a local school in your area.”

 

Continuing to work in the current environment means that plumbing and heating engineers may come into contact with people who have the COVID-19 virus. To help mitigate the potential risk of COVID-19, APHC has developed a number of recommended procedures.

 

APHC members can access the COVID-19 procedural guides and templates from the members’ area of the APHC website at www.aphc.co.uk/members.  APHC members who require specific advice can call 0121 711 5030.

 

The government’s ‘Guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on maintaining educational provision’ can be read here.

 

Thursday 19th March

 

Wolseley has incorporated additional measures to minimise risk and protect our customers, colleagues and suppliers.

 

These include:

 

They added: “Please rest assured, we are working tirelessly to keep our colleague safe and our branches operating as normal where-ever possible to support your business.”

 

PHEX Tottenham has been postponed.

CIPHE has put together some practical advice and information for plumbers.

Wednesday 18th March

 

Installer, which was due to take place in Coventry in May, has been postponed until December.

The BMA’s committee meetings scheduled for March, April and May will take place virtually but not in person. The association’s secretariat are now all working from home but are contactable on the usual office number 01782 631619 and via email.

 

Tuesday 17th March

 

A survey has been launched by BESA, ECA and SELECT to get an early picture of the effect of Coronavirus on the engineering services sector and its supply chain.

 

The survey can be completed here: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/2CWB95Z

 

ESA Director of CSR Paul Reeve said: “Coronavirus is a fast-moving situation with significant social and economic implications. It is vital we understand the key problems being faced by companies and how to both represent and practically support our industry in what is fast becoming a changeable and challenging near future.”

 

The survey, which is completely confidential, should take around three minutes to complete. The initial deadline for responses is Friday 27th March at 4pm.

 

The survey comes as Build UK and CECA have stated that construction ‘sites may have to close’ due to coronavirus. The two bodies will be asking the Government to ‘identify safety critical work on the infrastructure network that is essential and must be continued’.

 

ECA is monitoring the situation closely and has created an employer advice portal at www.eca.co.uk/coronavirus. All updates and advice about the Coronavirus from BESA are available at https://www.thebesa.com/coronavirus-updates/.

 

Elsewhere, Hep20 says it’s open as usual.

 

Monday 16th March

 

Big Wipes says it has received many enquiries, with its product being used by many tradespeople on the job – here’s what they had to say.

Heating engineer Keith Harrison, among others, is urging customers not to organise tradespeople coming into their homes while they are isolating.

Industry bodies, like The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI), are making preparations to ensure a ‘seamless’ service should the Government escalate its plans to deal with the virus.

DEPHER is still providing its discounted service to the elderly and vulnerable.

And the Rainy Day Trust is offering its support for tradespeople throughout the period.

But ultimately, morale is high among the trades!

Government support

 

If you are a contracted worker you will be entitled to statutory sick pay from day one of your self-isolation instead of day four – and you can self-certify for the first seven days without the need for a medical note.

 

If you are self-employed you will be eligible to apply for Universal Credit for the period of your self-isolation.

 

The government has put measures in place to support small and medium-sized businesses during the pandemic – find out more here.

 

Medical advice

 

For up-to-date information about the coronavirus, including how to avoid catching it or spreading it, head to the NHS website here.

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