COVID-19: Can your job wait?
1 April 2020
As New Zealand hunkers down at home in COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown, the plumbing, heating and drains in our properties are getting more use than usual. This could lead to breakdowns or failures.
Fortunately, plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers are classed as essential services during the lockdown. However, they are only allowed to carry out essential work in situations where people’s health and safety is in immediate danger.
The emphasis is on essential repairs, not those that can wait for another day.
Current definitions include:
- The repair/replacement of hot water cylinders that have failed (hot water will be required for sanitation purposes)
and where there is an immediate threat to people's health and safety:
- The unblocking and repair/replacement of sanitary waste pipes
- The repair/replacement of water pipes
- The repair/replacement of gas piping, fittings and appliances
Heating is essential to keep people healthy as the weather gets colder, however it may be preferable for everyone involved to make do with portable electric heaters rather than attempt major work during the lockdown.
Before you pick up the phone, remember that as many people as possible in New Zealand are supposed to be staying at home to halt the spread of the virus. This includes tradespeople.
Risk assessment is essential, so ask yourself:
- Is this really an urgent job or can it wait?
- Is anyone in immediate danger?
- Do I really want to risk someone outside my bubble entering my home?
- Can I make do — or find another temporary solution — until lockdown ends?
If you decide to make the call, you may have to contact several companies to see whether they are open, willing and able to come out for repair or replacement work.
You will need to be ready to:
- Describe the problem in detail. Providing photos or video or a live feed could help diagnose the problem and minimise the amount of time the tradesperson spends in your home
- Answer questions about your health and lockdown situation — Who is in your property? Is anyone vulnerable? Are you all healthy? Are you in self-isolation or quarantine?
If it hasn’t already come up in conversation, we recommend you ask the business about the:
- Health of their staff
- Precautions they will take to minimise the risk of spreading the virus
- Things you need to do to prepare your home for their visit. You may be asked to clean any surfaces the plumber or gasfitter is likely to touch before they arrive
- Payment – Will you have to pay online? Does the company require a deposit?
Companies have the right to refuse a job request. Please do not be offended if your job is turned down. There will be a good reason.
During the lockdown, plumbing, gasfitting & drainlaying businesses:
- Must follow government rules and only carry out essential services
- May be extremely busy and/or short-staffed
- May not have adequate PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) to minimise the risk of infection to everyone involved.
If your job is non-essential, consider making a booking for after the lockdown. It is highly likely that there will be an influx of calls to plumbing businesses once things start to return to normal. Booking early may ensure your job is one of the first to be completed.
Do not attempt to do the work yourself! We are already hearing reports of DIY work going wrong — resulting in water and gas leaks — and urgent calls to our members. Almost all aspects of plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying work are restricted and illegal to DIY. Find out more on the Plumbers, Gasfitters & Drainlayers Board website.
If your job fits the criteria, all steps and preventative measures should be explained to you at time of booking and by the tradesperson prior to entering your property.
Upon arrival, the tradesperson may call you from outside so you can open the door and then self-isolate/move to another room while the work is carried out. Everyone involved needs to maintain physical distancing - keep 2 metres away.
The plumber/gasfitter/drainlayer should be wearing protective gear if they are coming into your home – foot covers, gloves, face mask, goggles and disposable overalls. They will probably also have hand sanitiser or wipes.
While they will clean up after themselves, for your own peace of mind and to preserve your bubble, you may wish to deep clean after they leave.
Master Plumbers member businesses have the safety, health and wellbeing of their customers and employees as their top priority.
As a customer, you need to make sure you're comfortable with someone outside your bubble coming into your home and take all necessary steps to minimise the risks to you, your family and the tradesperson.
Stay Safe. Be Kind. We will get through this.
The most up to date information about COVID-19 in New Zealand can be found on the government website: https://covid19.govt.nz/