COVID-19 savvy tradies keeping customers safe

O'Neill & Brown Group 10 November 2020
Plumbers feeding hose into drain.

Operating during a pandemic is not exactly in a plumber’s job description, but procedures for dealing with dangerous contaminants definitely are. Photo: Region Media.

A lot of us feel the events of 2020 have brought the world to a grinding halt. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Sadly, certain industries have been seriously compromised by COVID-19 restrictions. However, many more, including Canberra’s tradies, have continued on without skipping a beat.

If our toilets didn’t flush and our lights didn’t function, our world would come to a dark and smelly standstill.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 chaos, O’Neill & Brown Plumbing Service’s tradies have braved the health risks of the pandemic in order to keep services functioning.

When the proverbial hit the fan back in early 2020, there was no set of pandemic instructions for tradies. National leadership seemed panicked, and ever-changing pandemic protocols only served to confuse, and even scare, essential workers.

Eventually, level-headed tradies – the type on which we so desperately rely – composed sensible systems for servicing customers safely during the pandemic.

O’Neill & Brown Plumbing Service’s national service manager, Damien Holder, recalls the early days of the outbreak and how it impacted the plumbing trade.

“Initially, we were unsure what to do,” he says. “But it was fast becoming apparent that we needed to act. Information was sketchy and we knew for sure that our customers and our staff were worried. I was definitely concerned, but shutting up shop simply wasn’t an option.”


READ ALSO: Celebrating 50 years of O’Neill & Brown Plumbing


There was little reliable information about working under pandemic conditions, particularly early on. Tradies were left to sift through the media hype and conflicting opinions of government to assess an appropriate way forward.

Damien says reaching a set of COVID-19 safe protocols was actually not that difficult as common sense prevailed. The aim was to protect team members and customers.

“We unpacked the information at hand and spoke with other trades, small and large, and it was pretty clear all the top operators were getting across the situation and starting to set up safety procedures,” he explains.

“There was a real sense of solidarity and getting on with the job. Implementation of protocols was being undertaken by a broad cross-section of leading trades businesses. COVID-19 effectively added a new layer of safety and a heightened level of concern, but the good operators are doing their bit – looking out for both customers and workers.”

Damien Holder from O'Neill & Brown.

O’Neill & Brown national service manager Damien Holder. Photo: Region Media.

Damien says the protocols implemented by O’Neill & Brown Plumbing Service and other professional trades firms are not complicated. With dedicated adherence, the protocols have been effective and customers are appreciating the extra care and effort from reliable tradies despite the added level of process involved.

“The inconvenience of the new protocols was a little tricky at the start,” says Damien. “But once everyone was on the same page, it really wasn’t a problem.

“Importantly, there was no significant inconvenience for customers. People understood they’d be asked a bunch of questions about travel, health, exposure and the like. Many customers were already prepared for a COVID-19-related response from us. Plenty were just grateful we could actually get there and unblock the toilet.”

Blocked toilets and wading through sewers are not plumbers’ only roles, but it is their core business. In that regard, they are no strangers to the risks of biohazards. While operating during a pandemic isn’t exactly in plumbers’ job description, the procedures for dealing with dangerous contaminants definitely is.

“Plumbers already have strict rules and procedures for working in toxic environments,” says Damien. “Decontamination procedures are routine. For an experienced plumber, preparation and clean-up after dealing with toxic materials becomes an immutable habit. A plumber’s health, and that of their customers, absolutely depends on it.”

So how can you tell if a tradie is COVID-19 savvy? Damien says, at the very least, they’ll ask the critical questions in order to assess risk.

“In many respects, COVID-19 has become an unwelcome but useful tool for assessing the professionalism of a tradie,” he says. “A well-considered COVID-19 protocol demonstrates that an operator is prepared to go the extra mile to ensure customer and employee safety.”

To learn more, head to O’Neill & Brown Plumbing.


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