It’s been less than 24 hours since the Governments guidance updates around the housing market hit the internet. The news has been eagerly anticipated but wasn’t expected to be delivered this quickly. The Property Eye website crashed from the sheer volume of link clicks as we all scrambled for the detail in anticipation of getting back to work.
From today (13th May) anyone in England can move home if they follow new guidance published by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
Estate agents’ offices can open; viewings are permitted; show homes can open; removal companies and the other essential parts of the sales and lettings process are re-started with immediate effect.
And whilst we all want and, in some cases, need to get back to work we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that despite the pent up demand for reports, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. We should only be looking at resuming work if we are ready to do so and collectively act responsibly and safely.
The Government has set out guidance for working safely – How to make your workplace COVID-Secure’ and specific to our industry; ‘Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people’s homes’.
The key objectives are:
- That all employers carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
- To reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority
“You must make sure that the risk assessment for your business addresses the risks of COVID-19, using this guidance to inform your decisions and control measures. A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. If you have fewer than 5 workers or are self-employed, you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment. Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you need to.”
So your first priority should and must be not how many jobs you can book in today, but about managing the risks associated with your role as an inventory provider. You should then share that risk assessment with those you employ and or work with i.e self-employed clerks, contractors, agents, landlords.
Your risk assessment should factor in the risks posed by COVID-19 in your workplace (office space) and whilst working in the property as soon as possible.
The Government guidance documents provide the basic steps that will usually need to taken when working in homes:
- No work should be carried out in a household which is isolating because one or more family members has symptoms or where an individual has been advised to shield – unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household.
- When working in a household where somebody is clinically vulnerable, but has not been asked to shield, for example, the home of someone over 70, prior arrangements should be made with vulnerable people to avoid any face-to-face contact, for example, when answering the door.
- You should be particularly strict about hand washing, coughing and sneezing hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth and disposing of single-use tissues.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 specifically state that although agents’ offices can open, fines are still in force and have actually been increased for breaking the rules.
Staying updated with the latest guidance and considering how it can be applied to your work is vital for both your health, the safety of others and for the sake of your pocket.
The key questions for you and your business to address quickly are:
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) disposable gloves, face masks, shoe covers, sanitiser; do you have enough to cover every single appointment?
- Do you have your social distancing protocols in place?
- Do your employed/self-employed clerks, subcontractors know what your policies are and understand their own responsibilities?
- Do your clients, the tenants and landlords know how you will conduct your reports and how you will keep them safe?
If any of your answers are no; then you’re not ready to get back to work….
Now is the time to ensure you have safety protocols in place and the correct PPE available so whilst it’s good news that restrictions are lifted we still have to ensure that Government guidelines are followed and policies and risk assessments carried out.
To help you start the risk assessment process and consider the Government guidelines to ‘Stay alert, Control the virus, Save lives’ we have produced the following protocols and checklist for use in-app as well as Buyer and Supplier guidance when booking/bidding for Workstreams jobs.