This guidance document provides information for In-Home Repair and the Field Service Industry (maintenance, upgrade, and repair services) during the COVID-19 pandemic. This information is based on currently available scientific evidence and expert opinion and is subject to change as new information becomes available. It should be read in conjunction with relevant government regulations, and policies.
Why are guidelines needed for the In-Home Repair and Field Services Industry?
In-home Repair and Field Services include any service that facilities installation, maintenance, upgrade, and repair of home equipment or appliances including:
- Heating/ventilation/air conditioning/ventilation (HVAC)
- Professional cleaning
- Pest control
- Computer repair
- Appliance repair
- Motor vehicle maintenance
The return to normal operations of these services during the COVID-19 pandemic, must be done carefully and with the guidance of stringent health and safety protocols.
This document provides recommendations for employers, service industry workers and their customers, to minimise the spread of COVID-19 disease.
This guidance serves as a minimum standard that should be adhered to by the relevant parties. At all times individuals are to adhere to the current COVID-19 Regulations and the National Policy on the Use of Antigen-Detecting Rapid Diagnostic Tests (“Lateral Flow Tests”).
This guidance covers recommended measures for protection during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Click on the links below to jump from section to section.
- Assessing Risk
- Worker Health and Safety
- Employee Communication and Training
- Customer Communication and Engagement
- Managing Identified Risks
- Service Industry Worker Health and Hygiene
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Administrative Controls
- Hygiene and Social Distancing Protocols during In-Home or Field Service Visit
- Actions for After the Service Visit
- Transportation and Use of Service Vehicles
You can also download the full guidance including an operational checklist for in-home and field services.
Assessing RiskEmployers have a responsibility to take all necessary steps to protect their workers, including contractors and delivery personnel, customers, and others from contracting the COVID-19 disease. It is recommended that a risk assessment is conducted to identify risks and determine the necessary and appropriate health and safety measures to manage those risks. The risk assessment should include as a minimum, the following actions:
- identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards);
- decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk);
- take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this is not possible, control the risk; and
- develop and maintain a risk register to monitor risks and update risk mitigation/ control strategies.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) provides guidance on how to perform risk assessment. Employers must assess risks with each assignment, based on current COVID-19 situation in their area/country.
Worker Health and safetyThe risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19 during an outbreak may vary from very high to high, medium, or lower (caution) risk. The level of risk depends on the industry type, and the need for contact between workers and with customers or others they interact with from time to time. Assess the risk to workers based on the roles/work they perform and identify how these risks can be managed or mitigated.
Ensure that health and safety policies are followed. If these policies are outdated or do not exist, this is a good opportunity to ensure they are developed or updated to reflect any policy and protocol changes with respect to COVID-19. This should include procedures for:
- Management of ill workers
- Processing of leave (sick leave, carer leave, etc)
- Working from home safely
- Reporting of illness
- Incident reporting
- Crisis Management
Employee Communication and TrainingThe risk assessment and the identified worker health and safety protocol/plan must be developed with the input of staff and shared with them. Use visual aids during training and for ongoing communication of information on procedures for the following:
- Physical distancing
- Reporting/handling of illness for themselves or a customer
- Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Cleaning and disinfecting protocols
Customer Communication and Engagement
- The COVID-19 health and safety protocols must be communicated to customers either verbally, in writing, or through various media including social media.
- Communicate with customers in advance of visits and provide the customers with health and safety guidelines for both the service worker and customers.
- Schedule visits by appointment, where feasible and inquire if they have any special requests or concerns on the visit.
Managing Identified Risks
The Hierarchy of Controls is a system used to deploy effective controls within an organisation, workplace, or community to identify the most effective ways to control a hazard. Depicted within the inverted pyramid, the more effective controls are on the large, top side of the pyramid, whereas the least effective controls are on the bottom.
(1) Elimination – Completely eliminates exposure to the hazard. The most effective control, but not always possible.
(2) Substitution – Replaces the hazard with a non-hazardous/ less hazardous object, device, or substance.
(3) Engineering Controls – Isolates the person from the hazard through physical or mechanical means.
(4) Administrative/Process Controls – Changes made to the way people work.
(5) Personal Protective Equipment – Equipment worn by the person to protect themselves from real or potential hazards, e.g. gloves, aprons, coats, safety glasses, respirators, etc.
Service Industry Worker Health and Hygiene
- Service industry workers should remain at home if they have COVID-19 like symptoms such as fever or cough and report the illness to their employer.
- They must perform hand hygiene before and after working and after any interactions with customers.
- Service industry workers must practice respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Avoid sharing of tools and equipment if possible. If this is unavoidable, disinfect properly after each use.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Service industry workers must wear appropriate PPE (masks, gloves, shoe covers). The use of face shields by staff should be considered based on the nature of the work and the risk of exposure to suspected cases of disease e.g. where social distancing is not possible such as if face to face interaction is required with the customer or co-workers.
- Gloves should be changed between customers or sanitized. Where this is possible, consider the use of disposable gloves.
- Avoid touching faces including eyes, noses, and mouths until PPE is removed and proper handwashing is performed.
- Employers should ensure they provide PPE to their workers and maintain an appropriate stock in the office and service vehicles.
- Service industry workers must always be mindful of and be guided by their company’s workplace policies and protocols and those of the customers. Policies may include:
- Ensuring that team members that are sick do not offer services
- Requirements for entry
- Social Distancing (as best as possible - work at a time when fewer staff members are present)
- Hand sanitising
- Cleaning of the space on completion of the job
- Incident reporting
- Minimising visits to customers where possible
- Employers must provide and maintain an adequate supply of soap, paper towels and hand sanitiser (containing between 60-80% ethanol or isopropanol or a combination of both) for use by workers in the office and in their service vehicles.
- Discuss the service needed with the customer to determine if an onsite visit is required. Offer phone or virtual services using tools such as Facetime, Skype or Zoom to assist customers with easy issues or installation.
- Discuss the working environment and practices with customers in preparation for the visit to confirm how the work will be carried out and to assist with the identification and management of risks for onsite visits. Perform as much pre-work consultation as possible before the onsite visit e.g. request submission of pictures or more detailed information (refer to the checklist in Appendix A of the guidance document).
- If the service is to be carried out in the home/office of a customer, limit the number of persons in attendance to those who are needed.
- If service is to be provided at a venue where there are potentially infected persons, and the customer does not comply with the guidelines, the company must advise their staff to discontinue the service and leave the location immediately.
- If worker(s) become ill, the company must inform the customer and the service visit cancelled or rescheduled.
- The customer must inform the company if they become ill or suspected of having COVID-19 and reschedule non-essential service visits.
- If possible, utilise a credit card or online payment facilities and limit cash transactions.
- If in-office payment is required, protect staff by placing a plexiglass partition between the person accepting the cash and the customer or they wear the appropriate PPE.
- If payment can only be done on the site of the visit, ensure the proper PPE is worn and hand hygiene is performed on completion.
Hygiene and Social Distancing Protocols during In-Home or Field Service VisitService industry workers and customers must wear masks when present in the space. Refer to CARPHA’s guidance on the use of masks.
Protocols for Customers
- Prior to the arrival of the service industry worker, the customer should clean and disinfect the room(s)/areas and surfaces where the service provider will or is likely to work.
- The customer may consider performing temperature checks e.g. for offices/business places.
- If there are other people present during the visit, the customer must ensure that they stay completely away from the area where the work is taking place and limit person-to-person interactions.
- If contact is made with the service industry worker or any items they touch, perform hand washing or sanitise hands.
- As applicable, open, and close any doors for the service industry worker when they enter or leave to minimise touching of any surfaces.
Protocols for Service Industry Workers
- Limit the number of service industry workers on a visit and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (2 metres) from the customer. Identify busy areas where people traverse (stairs, corridors) and ensure the customer minimizes movement within these areas.
- Notify the customer upon arrival at the premises and wait for approval to enter. Do not shake hands when greeting the customer.
- Ask customers to leave all internal doors open, where possible, to minimise contact with door handles and improve air circulation. Touch only knobs and surfaces as necessary and required for work.
- Perform hand hygiene before entering the premises and don gloves and during the service visit, as necessary.
- A disposable mat should be taken on the visit. Tools or items needed for work should be on this mat. Do not place them on a table or a countertop. Do not leave tools and other items on any surfaces of the home/office. Hold in your gloved hand, or place in the toolbox or on the mat brought.
- Do not consume food and drink on the customer’s site. If the lunch period will occur during the service visit, consume your own food and drink outside the premises.
- Take any breaks outside.
- Keep the activity time involved as short as possible.
- Communicate with the customer via phone, even though you are on the same premises. If this is not possible, speak outside or in a well-ventilated room while maintaining social distancing.
- Avoid using the customer’s bathroom and sinks if possible. If necessary, perform hand hygiene and put on a second set of disposable gloves. Bag the first pair for disposal after the visit.
- If it is unavoidable, the customer and service industry worker should clean and disinfect touched or shared items (e.g. tools, bottles, equipment, door handles, faucets, and bathrooms) as applicable.
- Increase ventilation by opening doors and windows where possible or increase ventilation rates of air conditioning systems.
- The use of physical barriers between service industry workers and customers as additional protection and separation should be considered if a considerable length of time will be spent working in the home or office space. Possible barriers could be:
- Temporary installation of a plastic sheeting/glass or plastic frame.
- Wherever feasible, closed doors and walls can be used as physical barriers to separate employees from customers.
Special recommendations for Pest Control Technicians
- Do not use rodenticides in cases where the frequency of visits needs to be minimised.
- Remove any glue boards and ensure live capture traps are deactivated if it is determined that future onsite visits are not necessary.
- Label rodenticide restrictions that need to be followed for premises or sites with a high risk of re-infestation (e.g. permanent baiting strategy).
Special recommendations for Plumbers
- There is limited evidence about the transmissibility of SARS-COV-2 in water. Due to the paucity of information on virus transmission and survival in water, precautions must be taken when working with water, aerosols, and sprays. Plumbers carry out maintenance or repair of plumbed fixtures, pipelines, sanitary drainage systems or sewers, creating the potential for contact with water or aerosols where the virus may be present.
- Plumbing related activities should be carried out in accordance with the OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1926, Safety and Health Regulations for Construction for full PPE (including full face shield, masks, gloves, and respiratory equipment).
- It is also recommended to increase the frequency of hand hygiene, including extending beyond the minimum 20 seconds after contact with wastewater; avoiding touching the face; cover any open cuts or wounds.
Special considerations for Heating/ventilation/air conditioning/ventilation (HVAC) Workers
- Current evidence reveals that the virus can be transmitted by air, through aerosols and contact with contaminated surfaces. However further research is needed on its penetration and survival rate in an HVAC system, where an infected person may be present.
- The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends that HVAC workers wear a properly fitted respirator (N95 or higher), eye protection (goggles, face shield), and gloves, especially for service of a home/building HVAC system where there is an infected person.
- The HVAC systems should be turned off prior to entry for any maintenance activity.
- When feasible, filters can be disinfected by spraying them with a 10% bleach solution or another appropriate disinfectant, before removal and disposal. The US Environmental Protection Agency provides a list of disinfectant products that can destroy the coronavirus (see References).
- Do not use disinfectants on ventilation filters prior to continued use of the filters inside ventilation systems as their effects on filter performance are unknown. Spray filters with disinfectants only if they are to be removed from service and discarded. Filters removed from HVAC systems with suspected coronavirus contamination should be disinfected and placed into a regular trash bag (do not bend, tear, or crush the filters). Dispose of as normal trash. There are no special bagging/tagging requirements or waste processing steps necessary, outside of the normal waste processing procedures.
- When maintenance tasks are completed, perform hand hygiene.
Actions for After the Service Visit
- The customer should clean and disinfect any touched or shared items (e.g. Pens, tools, bottles, equipment, door handles, faucets, and bathrooms) as applicable. Wear appropriate PPE (masks, disposable gloves).
- Sanitise the room(s)/areas/appliances and surfaces where the Service Industry worker worked or touched.
- Perform hand hygiene on completion.
Service industry worker
- Provide sufficient disposal bags to contain discarded items (disposable mat, gloves, garbage). All tools, parts or materials and filled disposal bags should be removed on completion of the work. Where possible, disinfect the waste and bag, as necessary.
- When work is completed, send, or offer an electronic report documenting the work. performed, where possible. If the customer insists on a written report, place it on a surface designated by the customer rather than handing it to them. Recommend that the customer immediately wash their hands after handling the document.
- Send an electronic receipt to customers where possible. Employers should allow sign off on the service call with verbal approval or a phone call to the office, during this time. Avoid handling electronic devices, clipboards, paperwork, pens, or styluses during the service visit.
- Upon leaving the customer, dispose of PPE (gloves, masks etc) and perform hand hygiene using hand sanitiser (which should be in the vehicle). When the Service industry worker returns home or to their office, they must wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean and sanitise all tools, equipment or items used in the visit in a designated area. Perform hand hygiene on completion.
- Service companies must provide appropriate and adequate cleaning supplies in the service vehicle and at the company office.
Sanitisation can be performed using water with detergent and commonly used disinfectants (such as properly diluted bleach: 1-part bleach to 99 parts water or 1½ tablespoons of bleach to 9.9 cups of water). For surfaces that cannot be cleaned with bleach, 70% ethanol can be used.
Transportation and Use of Service VehiclesWhere transportation is required, the following are recommended:
- Service industry workers must wear masks if two or more persons are travelling together in the vehicle.
- Limit the number of persons in the vehicle to one if possible. Otherwise, ensure appropriate physical distancing or keep the time where people are in close proximity as short as possible.
- Consider putting workers on shifts or acquiring extra vehicles where needed.
- Where necessary, retrofit transport equipment with necessary screens to reduce contact of drivers and passengers and mandate wearing of masks within the vehicles.
- Where possible, limit the use of air-conditioning in favour of natural fresh air.
- The driver should perform the following:
- Proper hand hygiene before leaving for the service call, on arrival at the customer’s home/office, and before entering the vehicle at the end of the visit.
- Sanitise the vehicle door handles (inside and outside), steering wheel, gear stick, seatbelts, mirrors, etc. before and after use, particularly if the vehicle is shared with others. Ensure that any surface that may have been touched is sanitised.
- Use contactless payments when refuelling, where possible; wear your face mask and stay at least 6 feet (2 metres) away from other motorists; use hand sanitiser upon returning to the vehicle.