COVID-19 Considerations for Field Service Businesses and WorkersBy My Service Depot on Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Field service businesses that must continue to run during the COVID-19 crisis should take these precautions.
Right now, all anyone can talk about is the 2019 novel coronavirus or COVID-19. At the end of January, the federal government warned Americans that the virus would soon hit US soil. Since then, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) formally issued a public health emergency regarding the virus, the World Health Organization has declared that COVID-19 is a pandemic, and the federal government has classified it as a National Emergency. Needless to say, these are all pretty serious and unusual declarations.
How Coronavirus Impacts Field Service Workers
No one knows exactly how the coronavirus spreads. It is believed that it moves by person-to-person contact or through the respiratory droplets that may go into the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Keeping distance from people and avoiding contact with contaminated surfaces is critical to avoiding contagion.
The coronavirus directly impacts anyone who regularly comes into contact with other people, like field service workers. While your staff has less exposure risk than someone who has a higher frequency of public interaction, such as restaurant workers, retail employees, or mass transit officials, they still need to practice caution in order to remain safe and limit the spread of the virus.
How can you reassure customers?
Obviously, a good deal of field service work cannot simply stop until the virus passes. If someone has an issue with their plumbing or HVAC, they will still need it fixed right away. Reassure your customers by publishing information on how your company plans to handle the outbreak. Assure people that your techs will keep a safe distance from them and their families as they resolve their issues. Make your customers aware that your office will practice better sanitation through frequent and thorough cleanings and that employees may wear masks or gloves during service calls. Also, help them understand that you may be operating with limited staff and getting an appointment may take longer than normal.
How can technicians keep themselves safe?
In order for your techs to stay safe, help them understand how they can avoid getting infected. Here are some suggestions from OSHA:
- Keep a safe distance: Advise your workers to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from any person who is not in their immediate household. Techs may have to request that customers remain two paces or more away from them at all times.
- Use the right supplies: Using alcohol-based hand sanitizers and maintaining ready access to soap and tissues is a good first step, but also consider providing your team gloves and face masks. You may want to consider making respirators available.
- Make good hygiene a policy: Requiring more frequent acts of cleanliness, like washing hands after every visit, at the start of the shift, or at the end of one, may help your employees reduce their risks of infection.
- Stay home if necessary: Any employee who is older, has a serious medical condition like diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease, or is otherwise immuno-compromised should stay home and self-quarantine.
What else should you do?
There are a few other best practices field service businesses should put in place. Following these guidelines will help you keep yourself, your employees, and your customers safe from the virus.
- Learn about what is happening: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued formal guidance for businesses. Your state and local government may also publish certain standards. Seek these materials out and follow them. Be aware that updates may happen frequently as the virus progresses. You may have to be proactive.
- Share your knowledge: Once you are aware of a standard, guideline, or other communication, post or share it with your employees so that everyone remains aware of the current situation. This practice has the added benefit of reassuring employees that you are on top of the situation.
- Make sure they understand: As an employer, you are required to make sure that your employees understand the risks involved with executing their job duties.
- Keep ill employees home: If one of your employees is sick, or suspect that they could soon become sick, allow them to stay home. You do not want to risk your team infecting your customers, each other, or you. Consider relaxing any requirements you have for calling in sick, such as a doctor’s note.
- Allow telework: As a service industry, you may not be able to allow all of your employees to work from home, but if you have a bookkeeper, dispatcher, or receptionist, now is a good time to allow them to stay home and work remotely. Dispatch software like Smart Service can help these workers perform their job functions from anywhere.
- Be TOO careful: The CDC is currently recommending that anyone who has traveled to an area where the virus is widespread should self-quarantine for 14 days. Talk to your employees and find out whether this standard applies to them. Again, you don’t want to risk anyone getting sick.
- Brush up on the laws in your area: Certain geographic locations, including New York City and the state of New Jersey, require certain employers to give their staff paid sick leave to care for themselves or family members. Make sure that you remain in compliance during this difficult time.
- Remember the Unions: Some of your team members may be employed by a Union. Make sure that you understand how this impacts the way you manage your staff. Talk to the employee’s local bargaining representative to verify any required practices.
- Designate a Point of Contact: Unless you are a very small company, you will want to identify a single point of contact within your organization for any issues regarding COVID19. This person will work to remain informed, answer questions, and provide guidance as needed to both customers and employees.
As the pandemic develops, remember that the coronavirus is very serious, and the situation is stressful. Talk to your managers and make sure that they keep call-off confidential and that they appropriately advise your employees on how to stay safe. Small efforts early on may help keep everyone safe.