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Home Assist Fighting Covid-19

29 May 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of us and forced governments around the world to implement nationwide lockdowns in order to curb the spread of the disease. South Africa also adopted this course of action and has been in a state of  National Lockdown since 26 March 2020. These lockdown measures have drastically impacted our day to day lives and changed the way we do business.

Essential Service

Water and infrastructure maintenance was recognised as an essential service under the first published COVID-19 regulations and shortly thereafter the South African government published amended regulations expressly identifying emergency plumbing work as an essential service. In our view the regulations, to the extent it relates to water maintenance and plumbing work, have been laudable. The right to water and preservation of property are both recognised in our constitution, had the regulations prohibited plumbing work all together South Africans may have been deprived of water and many more homeowners could have been confronted with irreparable damage to their properties.

As we enter the new phase of lockdown all plumbing work is once again permissible, you can rest assured that we will not let up on doing all we can to ensure your safety on the job.  We have also put measures in place, and continue to roll them out, to protect our staff,  service providers and each of their plumbers’ against COVID-19. We outline these measures below.

What we  are doing for our employees 

All reliable guidance has stressed the importance of avoiding unnecessary direct contact to help contain the spread of the virus. Prior to the official lockdown, we implemented a remote working policy. HomeAssist will remain a fully remote company for the foreseeable future.  Remote working was one of our strategic company objectives for 2020 as a means of bettering the lives of our employees by reducing their travel time and costs. This crisis has merely accelerated our plans. 

We have also made all employees aware that being extra vigilant with hand-washing and disinfecting, avoid physical contact as much as possible, be highly aware of symptoms like sneezing and coughing and to follow stringent hygiene and self-isolate if experiencing any symptoms related to Coronavirus. 

What we are doing for our plumbers

Access to accurate information

We have prepared simplified posters and information sheets, as well as collated documentation by government bodies on how the virus is transmitted, the symptoms, as well as the internationally recognised preventative practices, such as how to properly wash your hands with water or hand sanitiser, and understanding the purpose for different types of masks. This information has been made available to our service providers, as well as our staff,  via our various communication channels.

Health monitoring 

Accurate data supported by ongoing testing and health monitoring was recognised  early on as vital in the fight against COVID-19 . We understand that information fact sheets may not necessarily easily translate into a system which can be used everyday during the pandemic. Therefore, we developed basic daily checklists to allow our service providers to monitor the health of their plumbers in a simple, yet effective manner. For essential services businesses in South Africa, employee symptom screening is required by the COVID-19 Directive on Health and Safety in the Workplace issued by the Minister in terms of Regulation 10(8) of the National Disaster Regulations. We therefore developed a daily register for monitoring whether employees of service providers have symptoms. 

Understanding the evolving regulatory landscape

The COVID-19 regulations are ever changing and have often been unclear. Although plumbing work was recognised as an essential service early into the lockdown, many plumbers chose not to operate out of fear of sanctions or fines. As such, we  took it upon ourselves and utilized our legal resources to provide our service providers with our understanding of the legal requirements to operate as an essential services business. These include obtaining a certificate from the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission of South Africa, how to prepare permits for each plumber who will be on the road, as well as confirmation letters that service providers are on our panel and that they are attending to essential services. We even designed posters which plumbers could attach to their vehicle windows to indicate that they are in the process of performing essential services. It is important to note that we ultimately shared our interpretation of the requirements and they do not amount to, nor should they be considered to be legal advice.

Getting the basics right

On 24 May 2020, President Ramaphosa announced that we will be moving to alert level 3 as from 1 June 2020. During this announcement, he also referred to the COVID-19 hotspots which will need to  take extra precautions as life gradually returns to normal. In line with this sentiment, we have also advised our service providers in these hotspots that we will be auditing their symptom monitoring at random, to ensure that they are taking the necessary precautions when being sent out to the public by us. These measures include:

  • Keeping a safe distance;
  • Not greeting by hand;
  • Sanitizing surfaces before and after they are touched;
  • Cleaning hands with hand sanitizer;
  • Wearing a mask at all times;
  • Wearing gloves;

Beyond this we felt the need to engage our customers and encourage them to play an active role in the safety of themselves as well as our plumbers, by calling our customers to remind them of the internationally recognised best practices which we think should be adopted when the plumber arrives on site.

Moreover, if you are a customer which is located in a hotspot, we may choose to service your claim at a later date after you have taken the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our plumbers. 

Working with retailers and distributors

Our supplier partners have also implemented measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Some of these measures include closing stores, reduced operating hours, staff count, and number of persons allowed in stores. At HomeAssist, it was important to liaise with our supplier partners  to obtain information on store availability and communicate this to our service providers to ensure that they have all the information necessary to collect the stock needed for attending to your claim. 

Moreover, we are aware that  distributors have the potential to be gathering grounds for people which is why it is important for us to understand their processes and procedures to limit human interaction in order to limit the transmission of the virus. 

From our perspective, our technicians are also our customers. Their needs are equally important to us, and making sure they have all the information they need to be as well prepared as possible to operate safely during this global pandemic, is a matter of great importance to us.

What customers must know

On top of the measures we have outlined above, we recognise that customs also have a role to play in their own safety. As such, we ask you to please follow public guidelines and adhere to social distancing guidelines at all times . In order to keep you and our plumbers safe  we will  cancel claim bookings if either party has been exposed to anyone showing potential symptoms, are showing symptoms themselves, have tested positive or been in recent contact with anyone who tested positive for Coronavirus.   

While we acknowledge that Insurance customers have a right to same day service we nonetheless are of the view that customers who have shown signs of illness should take the time to adequately quarantine themselves before exposing our plumbers to any kind of health concerns. Our plumbers visit many different customers in a day and while we can do our best to prepare them for the challenges ahead we would be naive to think that customers don’t have a part to play in limiting the spread of this virus.  Here are some suggestions to ensure everyone stays safe:

  • Disinfect your home prior to the plumber visiting your home.
  • Maintain social distance at all times and avoid physical contact with the plumber.
  • Please wear a mask while the plumber is in your home.
  • Please ensure the plumber can easily access your geyser and leak.

This is an unprecedented situation but we are confident that the steps we are taking will help to manage this very difficult situation while striking a balance between providing the excellent service we’re known for and protecting the health and safety of everyone involved. 

It should be noted that there may be challenges around stock availability while manufacturers and distributors restart their operations.  In the event that we are unable to find the correct parts we may postpone your job or after consulting with you use alternate parts.

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