Isolation or not, pipes still break, HVAC systems still stop working, and buildings still need maintenance. Here are a few steps you can take to keep you, your team and your clients safe during home visits.

“The new normal.”

You’re likely hearing this phrase a lot as coronavirus affects more and more regions throughout the world.

While some businesses, such as restaurants and non-essential stores are required to close their doors for an extended period, others are not only open, but must remain open. Roofers, plumbers, electricians, general contractors and home maintenance based tradies are considered essential to keep homes and businesses operating.

As some businesses may be experiencing even higher levels of activity during this outbreak, it is anything but business as usual. If this is happening to your business, here are some insights and guidelines to help as you and your team as you visit project locations – including making home visits.

First, what is the coronavirus?

There are several types of coronaviruses that have existed throughout the world for centuries. They’re a common cause of mild to moderate upper-respiratory illness in people and are associated with respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver and neurologic disease in animals. The current coronavirus that has been in the news lately is a strand called COVID-19. It first appeared in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.

What are the symptoms?

Patients who are confirmed by a physician to be infected with COVID-19 have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear in as few as two days – or up to 14 days following exposure. This is based on the current understanding of the incubation periods of other studied coronaviruses.

How is it transmitted?

COVID-19 is transmitted through direct contact and by being in close contact with respiratory droplets. Many details about this certain coronavirus are unknown, including how easily it is transmitted from person to person and its overall severity. According to Queensland Health, current research suggests the following as probable ways the virus is transmitted:

  • Inhaling the virus through the respiratory system when an infected person coughs or sneezes
  • Exposure to objects or surfaces that are contaminated from an infected cough or sneeze

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

To learn more ways to protect yourself and prevent coronavirus from spreading, the Australian Government provides regularly updated and helpful information at their website: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert

Since you can’t “self-isolate” as a construction and outdoor services tradie, here are six steps you can take to protect yourself and your customers from Coronavirus during house calls.

At some point during any project, you or members of your team will be going to project locations and meeting with clients. And while no method is foolproof, taking a few extra measures and following the latest directions from your government will help make you, your employees and clients as safe as possible.

1. Do a “wellness check” on yourself before you head out.

According to recent studies, the COVIS-19 virus can take up to two weeks before it shows its full effects. However, one of the earliest signs of infection is an increase in body temperature. So, if anyone is leaving your location for the day, take their temperature by mouth. A digital thermometer is the most accurate and quickest way to do this. They are available in most drug stores and supermarket pharmacies and cost anywhere from $8 to $20. Be sure to follow package instructions while using any thermometer.

Normal body temperature is about 98.6°F (or 37°C) and can vary from 1° to 2°F (½° to 1°C). A normal temperature is usually lower in the morning and increases during the day. It reaches its high in the late afternoon or evening. In adults, a fever is a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. If it reaches 102°F (38.8°C) or higher, call your healthcare provider.

No one — not you, and not your employees — with an elevated temperature should be heading to a job site for the day. If someone even feels slightly ill, send them home for the day just to be as safe as possible.

2. Let your customer know that you’ve done a wellness check and you’re on your way.

This may already be standard practice for some service professionals. But not having to knock on doors, touch doorbells or any other buttons removes the chance that you or your employees could unknowingly contract COVID-19.

Either call or text your customers to let them know you’re on your way. Then, call (or text) again when you have arrived at their location. Many have found that customers appreciate you taking this added layer of caution.

3. Don’t shake hands, and let them know why.

This may seem very basic and second nature to many of us, but the professional custom of shaking hands as a greeting is one of the quickest ways the COVID-19 virus can be shared.

Simply don’t do it. If a customer extends their hand, politely say that while you would like to shake their hand you cannot – out of respect and caution. Often, the most straightforward approach works best, and your customers will appreciate the fact that you’re looking out for your well-being.

4. Practice social distancing while on the job.

Once you are at a customer’s home or business, keep your distance. The Australian Government is recommending that everyone keeps a minimum of 1.5 metres from others.

If you are in an area that is experiencing a high number of COVID-19 cases, ask your customer if anyone at their location has been ill. If so, either reschedule your visit or ask if the project can be performed in an area that is a significant distance from anyone who may be infected.

If the service you provide is performed outdoors, then avoid going inside a customer’s business or residence.

Also, many temporarily closed businesses are currently using this downtime to make needed repairs or have work done. If you are called and need to enter a business location, try to encounter as few individuals as possible.

As far as face masks, if you are not sick you do not need to wear a facemask. They are designed to be worn by those who may be ill – preventing them from spreading their infection to others. At this time, face masks are in short supply and they should be saved for healthcare providers.

5. Take extra time to clean and disinfect your work areas.

The COVID-19 virus can last on surfaces anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Be sure to keep your job site as clean as possible. Wipe down and disinfect frequently touched surfaces – including tables, doorknobs, light switches, benchtops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, taps and sinks.

If surfaces are dirty, first clean them with detergent or soap and water – then disinfect them. If you don’t already wear gloves for your job, it’s suggested that you at least wear lightweight surgical gloves – changing them frequently.

6. Turn to technology to help.

To limit contact between you and customers, have them electronically sign documents. Several good online resources can easily help your business with this. All your customers need is an active email address to receive and sign any documents.

Plus, with your Invoice2go app, your customers will be able to pay you instantly and remotely – alleviating the need for you to visit them or pick up a payment in person.

As the situation with the COVID-19 outbreak is still unfolding, be sure to regularly check in with government websites for the latest information.

Many throughout the world have already been affected by this virus – some far worse than others. By adding a few extra steps to your workday and tapping into some helpful technology, you will still be able to get your work done – safely and productively.