Congratulations to Jon Gulliver, the author of this Who We Are blog, who has just taken up his new role of Building Safety Manager. Here, however, Jon has written about his experiences as Project Surveyor with BCHA, particularly during the first Covid lockdown. A member of the Asset Management team, Jon takes a keen interest in piloting smart building technology to help keep customers’ homes safe and efficiently managed.
"In addition to carrying out property inspections, my role as a Project Surveyor included overseeing our legionella and gas compliance programmes. The first lockdown led to an increase in demand for me to speak with our customers, especially where they raised more technical and regulatory related questions, which felt very rewarding.
"There is an expectation from the Health & Safety Executive that annual gas servicing should continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our customers have struggled with this as they have genuine concerns for their health and wellbeing, and that of their families, and were not expecting to be asked to open their homes for gas engineer visits.
"We have had to reassure customers that we are simply following instructions received from The Regulator for Social Housing & Gas Safe Register, and that they will not be penalised if they fail to permit access where they have received advice to self-isolate or shield themselves from any face-to-face contact for any period of time.
"As far as legionella is concerned, some of our care providers have refused to allow our external contractors access to complete the monthly temperature checks, which has led to an increase in contact with them.
"We appreciate the care providers need to balance the potential risk of a legionella outbreak with the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus to their elderly and vulnerable residents, but we still have a duty of care as the duty holder to provide suitable and sufficient advice on necessary control measures.
"In addition to speaking with the care providers, we have produced and distributed a legionella safety guide, which should help mitigate the risk of a legionella outbreak if they follow the simple control measures. Fortunately, the majority of our hot and cold water systems in the care homes present a very low risk from a legionella outbreak.
"We have also produced a method statement for our New Leaf repairs service to carry out the weekly flushing of all outlets where we have reduced occupancy. The regular turnover of water helps reduce the potential risk of the proliferation of legionella bacteria from stagnation and ensures that we avoid costly disinfections of our systems.
"The most positive change for me during the Covid pandemic has been the increased involvement with our customers, and trying to understand how they see the service being provided in their homes and listening to their complaints.
"Changes in legislation mean that we now carry out the gas safety check 10-12 months before the expiry of the current certificate, and retain the original expiry date similar to an MOT.
"Our gas safety policy states that we should contact our customers 60 days before the expiry date of their current certificate to offer them an appointment, and we are looking at how we can improve that first contact and our appointment letters to ensure the visit is at a time and date to suit their requirements, which would avoid the need for a second or third visit.
"The more we can engage with our customers and get them involved with the services we provide, the more we can ensure the service is tailored to their needs.
"he biggest change in the ways in which we engage with customers, is that we have had to listen more to our customers to understand how we can manage the compliance programmes to keep them safe in their homes while minimising the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.
"We’ve also had to be more patient with our customers who have received appointment letters in accordance with HSE guidelines, even though they have told us that they are self-isolating or shielding. We have to understand their frustrations while explaining our position at the same time, which takes a great deal of patience with some telephone conversations taking in excess of 20 minutes each time.
"Some of the more elderly residents have spoken of how the fear of the spread of the COVID-19 virus has left them feeling very isolated and alone particularly where members of their own family cannot visit.
"A few customers have told me how they found it difficult to adapt to the first lockdown, and that even though they may not have left their homes very often before the lockdown, the loss of freedom has left them feeling more vulnerable.
"Many people miss the routine of leaving the house to go to work, together with the everyday conversations with colleagues. We should not forget that the majority of us possess mobile phones, and we have the option of Microsoft Team and various other social media platforms, but we’re almost reluctant to use them, and we continue “email-conversations” that would be far better had by simply picking up the phone.
"Simply making the time to engage with our customers has felt a really rewarding exercise, and there is an immense feeling of satisfaction when customers says thank you, even if it’s just “thank you for taking the time to explain it to me”. Similarly, you can hear the relief in our customers’ voices when someone takes the time to truly listen to, and work with them."