How to stay safe while working in other people’s homes


While the UK government has pushed the message of ‘work from home if you can’ for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic, that doesn’t really apply to tradespeople.

For electricians, plumbers and the like, working often means going to other people’s homes. If you fit into the category of ‘in-home workers’, it’s important you understand the steps required to minimise the risk of you – or one of your employees – catching or spreading the virus.

The government has released online guidance for in-home workers to follow. It’s a big document, but we’ve summarised the key points here to make it more digestible so that you can get on with working safely throughout the pandemic.

As you assess your risk, ensure that you’ve got your commercial insurance up to date – check when your policy expires and if you’ve got the full scope of cover that you need.

So, let’s take a look at the advice on how to work safely in (or while delivering to) other people’s homes:

Covid-19 risk assessment

The first step to undertake is a Covid-19 risk assessment. But just what does that entail?

Well, if you have fewer than five people working for you – or it’s just you – you don’t have to formalise the risk assessment in writing.

Even if you aren’t a big firm, you should still take the time to identify what the increased risks caused by the virus could be, and then take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and others from those risks.

It’s all about trying to reduce the risk to the lowest realistic level, as it is with anything that you do when you go about your job. The steps that you should take to minimise risk are outlined in the rest of the guidance.
A mask placed next to a bottle of hand sanitiser

Steps to take when working in someone’s home

The government is clear in what steps you should take to keep yourself and others safe.

Firstly, the advice is to avoid households where someone has symptoms and is isolating, or where someone is shielding. Due to the nature of the virus, which is transmissible both in the air and via infected surfaces, the government suggests the risk can’t be mitigated enough in these circumstances.

The exception to this rule is when a repair is necessary to protect the safety of the household.

Meanwhile, if the household you’re working in contains someone who’s clinically vulnerable, such as someone over 70, you should avoid face-to-face contact, including when answering the door.

In every household, you should apply the following guidance:

·       Ensure you and your workers are washing their hands more often than usual for 20 seconds using soap and hot water (or use hand sanitiser if hand-washing facilities are not available).
·       If you need to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue to reduce the spread of germs. If you don’t have a tissue on you, use your sleeve and not your hands.
·       Clean any items and surfaces you touch regularly using regular cleaning products.
·       Communicate clearly with customers prior to your visit to explain how you’ll do the work to minimise risk for everyone.
·       Keep a distance of two metres apart whenever possible.
·       Maintain good ventilation in the work environment by opening any doors and windows.

Try to offer a digital or remote solution

The guidance on suggests you should attempt to provide a digital or remote service where possible. This could be an option for tradespeople where the repair is potentially straightforward and doesn’t require parts to be fitted, such as repressurising a heating system.

In theory, you could explain to the customer over the phone or a video call how to carry out the repair themselves. However, this is dependent on the customer being confident enough to do so and is unlikely to be possible in the case of most repair issues. 

It’s always advisable to speak to the customer over the phone first before carrying out a home visit so you can gauge what the issue is and what is required to fix it. This will help minimise the time spent in another household.

If social distancing isn’t possible

For some in-home workers, it’s not always possible to socially distance. Sometimes more than one pair of hands is necessary to complete a job safely and successfully. In these circumstances, the government advises the follow precautions: 

·       If it can be avoided, try not to share tools between workers. If a piece of equipment needs to be shared, try to limit the number of people using it and regularly clean it.
·       Talk to customers prior to your visit and explain your expectations of them.
·       Ask customers to leave all internal doors open so you won’t have to touch door handles.
·       Take your breaks outside, if possible.
·       Limit the number of workers in enclosed spaces.
·       Work in fixed pairs if two pairs of hands are necessary.
·       Ensure social distancing and hygiene measures are adhered to during deliveries of supplies.
A man wearing a mask raising his hand with a glove on

Wearing face coverings in other people’s homes

According to the government, there is “growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from COVID-19.”

So, it’s sensible for both you and the customer to wear a face covering during any face-to-face contact. However, use your common sense – if you and the customer are in separate rooms while the work is being carried out, a face covering probably isn’t necessary, as long as social distancing is maintained and there is good ventilation in the building.

Get a quote for commercial insurance

At Insurance Choice we can help you find the right commercial insurance for you and your business. Combining a range of covers to suit your specific needs, we can tailor your policy to meet your business requirements. Tradesman insurance policies can include cover for:

●     Tools and equipment cover
●     Public liability
●     Employers’ liability
●     Goods in transit
●     Legal expenses
●     Business equipment
●      Legal expenses

 Call us to get a quote on some great value commercial insurance deals. 

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.