How the Field Service Industry is Coping with COVID-19 Restrictions

An overview of how companies are protecting their technicians

COVID-19 has placed an enormous burden on workforces throughout the world. Unemployment claims in the United States recently skyrocketed to more than 6.6 million as workers are finding themselves unable to make a living. Many have either had their hours reduced or have been asked to work from their homes. At the same time, many workers, especially in the service industries, are deemed to be essential and must continue to go to work. Some of the biggest challenges that the service industry must overcome include responding to changes in the field, unplanned outages, and technicians unable to work due to illness. Per our research, 60% of field service organizations have that they are operating at reduced capacity. Additionally, 80% of service companies surveyed say that they are expecting lower than average revenue. These stats suggest the likelihood of layoffs coming from the service industry. Today might be the most dangerous time to be a service technician. 

Fortunately, new COVID-19 service industry guidelines and regulations are being followed to allow these workers to continue to go to work, and to do so safely. We are confident that the workforce will persevere through this time of uncertainty and come out stronger than ever. In the meantime, here are a few ways industries are protecting their technicians in the field.

 

Fire Protection

In lieu of being able to provide traditional training programs to workers, the National Fire Protection Association has developed a series of online training programs. The objective of these programs is to virtually simulate day-to-day tasks, such as establishing an electrically safe work condition and performing voltage measurements. While these online training programs do not perfectly emulate an actual workplace situation, it is a much safer alternative to having workers congregate in person for industry training programs.

The National Fire Protection Association has also created a tip sheet for service providers who are needed in hospitals, medical facilities, and other workplaces where they might come in contact with COVID-19. Here are some of the biggest takeaways:

  • Designate an infection control officer to be responsible for managing all contamination aspects regarding personal protective equipment through post-incident cleaning and management.
  • Use personal protective equipment when in the vicinity of or onboard any vehicle that supports emergency medical services. This equipment includes latex gloves, eye-wear, and masks.
  • Keep yourself and your gear clean. Workers are advised to wash their hands (or use hand sanitizer when needed) after every emergency medical incident, remove personal protective equipment, and clean emergency medical equipment or personal protective equipment.

 

Generators and Power Equipment

Companies that service different types of power equipment are setting new safety standards for their workers. CD & Power, a leading manufacturer and service provider of power generators, has adopted new policies for safety in accordance with those set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Their goal is to limit person-to-person contact as well as create a clean work space.

CD & Power distributes hand sanitizer (containing 60 to 95% alcohol) to all of their field employees, and requires that all vehicle and office handles be sanitized regularly. Other cleaning equipment is also distributed throughout the facility. CD & Power also supports administrative employees, as well as any ill service employees, to work from home.

EZimmerman, who provides generator service to homes, is taking additional precautions to protect the homeowners they serve and their employees. Technicians are given the option to reschedule service if they deem the work environment unsafe due to the presence of a sick individual. Employees are instructed to use masks, single-use gloves, and single-use shoe protection while working inside the home, and to sanitize any surface they touch before and after service. EZimmerman has also shifted towards only taking electronic payments.

 

 

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Petroleum and Gas Services

The natural gas industry has also provided leadership in preventing the spread of COVID-19 between employees and customers. Atmos Energy has created company guidelines beyond what is expected of them from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Beyond using Personal Protective Equipment and practicing social distancing, employees and customers are required to perform self-temperature checks to ensure that nobody who may be a carrier of COVID-19 is entering their facilities or interacting with customers. 

Beyond supporting the safety of their workforce, Atmos Energy has programs in place to support their communities. They have temporarily suspended natural gas disconnections for customers who fail to pay their bill due to many customers who are tight on funds. They also have a program called Budget Billing which bills their customers according to a twelve-month rolling average of their bill. Atmos Energy also partakes in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Other gas companies are assisting local businesses during this trying time. People’s Gas is taking action by also allowing businesses who might have a difficult time paying their bill on time the option to delay payments. Other gas companies, like Constellation, are helping businesses develop strategies to minimize the amount of gas they consume.

Conclusion

While being an industry service provider is a risky job at this time, there are measures that your business can take to protect your employees and the customers and communities you serve. Be sure that your technicians are using the proper personal protective equipment when out in the field. If applicable, adopt online training and safety programs to limit the person-to-person exposure of your employees. To complement this, have your technicians practice social distancing and sanitize any equipment or surfaces that are commonly shared. Lastly, it is crucial that you limit the number of people at each job site to control the spread of this virus. 

The following are a few things that any service industry can take away from the situation at hand. First, as companies are forced to modify their procedures to adapt to the pandemic, they may find new strategies that can continue to be implemented once things go back to normal. Secondly, create transparency. Communicate to your service team the status of your business, your priorities, and your expectations. This will provide your employees with some much needed clarity during this uncertain time. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, invest in remote field technology. This will assist your field teams offsite and help organize and create clarity when providing service.

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