Helping with the worries of a pandemic: Is it safe to have workmen come to the house?

22 September 2020

When we’ve spent so long in social isolation, or when a relative has, it can be worrying to think of someone coming into the house to do some work. You might be worried about whether they will bring the virus into your house, whether you or they should wear a face mask, or whether you can offer them a cup of tea as usual.

During lockdown, we took a call from a lady, Harriet, living in Scotland. She was distressed and needed urgent help for her elderly father who has Parkinson’s Disease, loss of voice and lives on his own in Gloucester. Some sockets in the kitchen had come off the wall and were unsafe. Harriet was worried that her father might try to fix it himself and cause an accident. She did not know what to do particularly in current circumstances.

What would you do in this situation?

Here are some points to consider:

  • It’s important to get a trusted trader as always. If you don’t already know a person you would call for the job, you can ask a friend or family, or a known local community group if they have a recommendation; or use services such as TrustMark and Buy with Confidence to find a local worker who has been vetted.
  • Many reputable workers will be taking good precautions, and they should be happy to tell you what they are over the phone so do ask.
  • There is clear guidance about what you can do to keep yourself safe from the virus. Government guidance includes:
    2m distancing – where possible to stay distant from the worker while they’re there. If you in a are vulnerable group you may even be able to arrange that you don’t need to have face-to-face contact.
    The worker should wash their hands on arrival, and at regular intervals, either with soap and water or hand sanitiser gel.
    Clean the surfaces where the job is to be done, before and after the work. This can be done with regular household cleaner spray or wipes.
    Keeping good ventilation: open windows or doors where possible.
    Ask the worker to bring their own refreshments.
  • Face masks or coverings are not a requirement as long as the 2m distance is kept, but if it would make you feel safer, ask them to wear one.
  • Consider the balance of risk in the particular situation – i.e. compare the risk of leaving the issue unattended (particularly electrical faults) with the risk of someone coming into your home.
  • Limit your exposure to the risk – it is partially about how much time you spend in proximity to someone with the virus, as well as how close you are. So a quick job will be less risky than a long one.

Liz, who answered the call to our support line from Harriet, reassured her and told her she’d try to help and ring her back. She contacted the editor of the local parish magazine where the gentleman lives, who gave her the phone number of a trusted local electrician. As he was able to help, Liz rang back as promised and gave Harriet the electrician’s number. The job was done within the hour and the sockets made safe again. Harriet and her dad couldn’t be more thankful for the help. Both ended up feeling a lot less stressed and happier.

With the end of shielding and easing of restrictions, many of us are confronted with the risks of day-to-day living, and the possibility of sudden localised lockdowns, while Covid-19 continues to exist in the population. The Guideposts Information Service is supporting people with long-term conditions and carers to manage the current situation by:

  • Practising anxiety-management techniques to feel more confident about going out of the house
  • Talking through decisions about the safest way to access health and social care
  • Finding the right assistive equipment to stay safe and independent at home
  • Connecting you with social groups and peer support online while local groups are still unavailable
  • Signposting to sources of financial and employment support.

Call our support line on 0800 048 7035.

Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm, and calls to the support line are free. Alternative, you can email us at hereinfo@guideposts.org.uk, or talk to an adviser via webchat at www.guideposts.org.uk/information-service.