Keeping the country moving
This year for Quality Plumber Week, we want to celebrate the UK’s plumbers as the backbone of the country’s workforce during these particularly trying times.
Rather than focus on the negative aspects of COVID, let’s champion the plumbers that are committed to delivering high standards
of workmanship and unrivalled levels of customer service despite the circumstances.
Here are just a few of those positive stories that you’ve shared with us from the past year…
As you would expect, many of our jobs were cancelled when lockdown started, and to protect the company and the staff we put everyone (bar myself) onto furlough for 2-3 months. During this time, we planned for the months to come and only carried out essential or emergency work.
Once we got through this period, we started to fill the diary again, ready for everybody to return from furlough. Since then, we’ve been extremely busy. It’s as though everyone was sitting at home for long periods of time, and when they realised that they needed work doing that they may have otherwise set to one side or dealt with at the last minute, they needed us. A frequently heard comment in the last few months has been: "Well, we aren't going on holiday now, so I'll have a new boiler/bathroom instead." Although not ideal for the customer (or myself as I would like a holiday), this has helped keep us busy and ensured job security for us and our staff.
As far as supporting our customers is concerned, our entire team have been told to wear the correct PPE and when knocking on the door to keep their distance. We have been sure to work away from customers, where possible, and to keep ultra-tidy workspaces. If we can minimise walking around their property to carry out the necessary work, then we will.
Our biggest issue during the start of the pandemic was that it was difficult to find reliable sources of information. Government advice was all over the place and there was a lot of incorrect information online. We used the APHC website more than once to check the news blogs and keep on top of the latest advice. We also used the Support Documents area for staff contracts and risk assessments to ensure we were on top of everything during this very difficult time.
I have carried out around 12 installations during the past year. Following strict social distancing measures, and also ensuring I have the correct PPE in place, I have successfully managed to continue to operate and stay very busy.
I also carried out an air source heat pump installation at the North East Homeless Charity during the pandemic.
Teaming up with Mitsubishi Electric and presenter George Clarke, they organised the job and issued the major components of the kit we needed free of charge. I carried out the installation of two air source heat pumps for the project – the building had no heating before, so it was extremely cold in there. It was crucial they had warmth as their aim is to help out homeless people and also run a shop and café alongside for those struggling in poverty.
It had such a positive effect on me working in the centre and seeing the work they do first hand, that I have since stayed in contact with the charity and help them out with repairs, sanitiser stations and cash donations.
It is an organisation I will remain in contact with and certainly help out wherever I can, especially during these difficult times we’ve had. I even went over on Christmas eve to deliver food hampers for them!
We made several donations to Basildon Hospital including:
- two televisions for a Staff Room we were refurbishing;
- 21 wooden chairs for staff to relax and reflect outside during their breaks;
- 50 Boxes of individually wrapped biscuits at Christmas.
We’ve also did our best to help out vulnerable individuals in the community wherever we could.
We pulled together labour and materials to fix an elderly gentleman’s garden fence and gate so that he can sit outside and enjoy his garden during a time where he had nowhere else to go. Plus our staff have continued to carry out weekly shopping trips since the start of the pandemic for a local elderly lady, and still continue to invest one afternoon a week to spend time with her and make sure she’s alright.
The MD of HW Wilson, Peter Wiffen, also gave all staff members a weekly bonus for working throughout the pandemic to help support them and their family during uncertain times, and for our unwavering commitment.
"On the 26th May I had some very helpful and kind workmen come to my flat on behalf of the city council to replace my hot water cylinder tank and carry out some maintenance.
"I just felt I wanted to write and say I am so happy with their work; as I sat in my lounge, I could hear them talking to each other about their work. They worked quickly and thoroughly, tidied as they went along and didn’t leave any mess. It all looked so nice, I wanted to leave the door open just so I could see them every time I went into the kitchen.
"I must tell you, I am 90 years young and after living here alone for the last year and three months, it was just great to hear some happy young voices. So if possible, please let them know how pleased I was to meet them and thank you."
It’s always satisfying to hear that you’re able to add that extra level of service to your customers, particularly the more vulnerable ones living alone during lockdown restrictions.
Quality plumbing isn’t just fitting a nice boiler or correcting a running tap. Quality plumbing is getting thrown into a situation that’s well out of most people’s comfort zones and adapting your skills to overcome the issues at hand.
Back in 2012 I was given the Mechanical Technicians position at the Newest British Antarctic Survey base Halley 6 which opened officially when I was overseeing the plumbing onboard – I was overseeing all sorts from getting water to getting sewage out and everything in between. We had power issues, which was not fun when it’s minus 40°C outside and we often had to improvise as we were essentially abandoned from help or assistance from April until November as the Antarctic winter makes help impossible.
We got the job done and had a successful season in Antarctica and I left after handing over to the next poor soul who quickly realised what he’d let himself in for!
Quality plumbing is also about passing skills on. I taught for 2 years from 2001-2003 in Namibia under some of the most challenging conditions imaginable.
I was massively rewarded for this in the experiences I had and the skill base it presented me with. I’ve adapted my skillset from what I initially set out with as an apprentice plumber at A&L King Builders ltd, Auchterarder in January 1994.