Coronavirus - information for consumers

Last updated - 05/01/2021

Recent updates:

  • New National lockdown in England from 5th January
  • New Stay at Home requirement in most areas of Scotland from 4th January
  • Wales at Alert Level 4 since 20/12/2020
  • Northern Ireland - new restrictions from 26/12/2020

 

England

From 5th January, a national lockdown is in place, however tradespeople may still continue to carry out repairs and maintenance in people's homes. However, due to the rapid increase of covid cases, those who are shielding have been advised not to work at this time.

A tier system was in place from 2nd December, if you use the Track and Trace app, it will automatically update to let you know which tier you are in. Otherwise, you can check your area here.

There are no restrictions on having work carried out in your home in any of the four tiers currently in place in England, this means any servicing work or upgrades may proceed as planned subject to safe working practices being followed. You may want to read the guidance for those working in other people's homes. 

Wales

From 20/12/2020 a new Alert level system was introduced. Even in Alert Level 4 the guidance says that work by tradespeople in the home may continue, although the guidance does recommend that people consider whether the work can be safely deferred until after alert level 4 restrictions have been lifted. To check the current alert level click here

Scotland

From 5th January, mainland Scotland will move from level 4 to a temporary lockdown and a requirement to 'Stay at Home'. There are a small number of areas that remain in level 3. You can check which protection level you are in and the rules for each level here. During the temporary lockdown it would appear that essential work (including repairs, maintenance and installation to utilities) can continue in people's homes but it's important to check locally whether there are any special rules in your area and to discuss what precautions you and your tradesperson will be taking to maintain social distancing and keep safe. 

Northern Ireland

Tighter restrictions were put in place from 26/12/2020 - the NI government guidance clearly states that tradespeople may continue their work in other people's homes - including repairs and installations.

The Republic of Ireland

It is our understanding that the level 5 restrictions currently in place in the ROI limit the work of tradespeople to essential repair and maintenance work only - click here for guidance. The list of essential services includes the supply and delivery of maintenance and repair services to businesses and places of residence (including electrical, gas, oil, plumbing, glazing and roofing services)

General advice

The recommendations below are still very much applicable and we can also recommend taking a look at the Work Safe. Safe Work video and web pages to understand the different ways that your heating technician may have adapted their working practices to help keep you (and them) safe. Communication and preparation is definitely key - discussing the work required prior to your technician arriving, this may help avoid a repeat visit if parts can be obtained beforehand, clearing the work area so your technician is able to get straight on with their work, keeping rooms well ventilated where possible. 

It is also important to consider your own particular circumstances - if you are in a clinically vulnerable category, you may wish to discuss additional precautions with the tradesperson prior to them arriving at your home. 

It may also be sensible to consider whether the planned work could be safely deferred to a later date. Please note, it is important not to defer repairs or checks that could impact your health and safety.

Getting work done in your home

Covid-19 poses significant challenges for heating engineers and their customers. It is clear that visiting homes presents an increased risk of transmitting the virus, both to the tradesperson and to the people in the homes that they visit. However, the work carried out by the heating and plumbing industry is essential to maintain the safe supply of heating and hot water, not only to homes, but to schools, hospitals and businesses.

If you are planning to have work carried out on your heating system, or need to call out a heating engineer because of a boiler breakdown or other problem, what should you do? In the first instance, you may wish to check our trouble shooting tips page. These are straightforward checks you can carry out yourself to help identify and resolve minor issues with your heating system.

The UK government has now published guidance for tradespeople about the extra precautions professional tradespeople should take when visiting their homes.

You may also want to read the online guidance about tradespeople working in homes.

It is important to remember that advice varies slightly in the devolved regions, so please ensure you check locally what activities may and may not take place.

What may change?

Registered businesses will have carried out their own risk assessments and may be implementing additional precautions not listed here. 

  • Maintaining the social distancing guidelines
  • Communicating with households prior to arrival to ensure social distancing and hygiene measures are clearly understood and followed before work commences
  • Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and regularly washing their hands
  • Holding any conversations outdoors or in a well-ventilated room
  • Arranging methods of safely disposing of any waste with the householder
  • Not sharing pens, paper or other items and declining refreshments

Households can also help to keep both themselves and tradespeople safe by:

  • Keeping surfaces and rooms where tradespeople are working clean and well ventilated
  • Not entering the room while work is being carried out unless absolutely necessary
  • Clearly outlining the work required, providing photos if possible for the tradesperson before arrival to reduce the amount of time they need to spend in the home
  • Carefully reviewing any new measures shared by the tradesperson before they arrive and clarifying any questions or concerns with them in advance
  • Paying by bank transfer and not using cash

Please do not be offended if your regular heating technician introduces these or any other new measures - it's certainly nothing personal, they will have been carefully considered to help keep you, themselves and their other customers safe.

As long as the new guidelines are followed, you should feel safe having heating technicians in your home. If you have any concerns please discuss these with your heating technician prior to their visit who will be happy to reassure you about the extra precautions they are taking. 

Please note, a heating technician may choose to leave work incomplete, if they do not feel that you are enabling them to work in line with government guidelines.

When work should not take place

No work should be carried out if either the tradesperson or any of their household is displaying COVID-19 symptoms, however mild. This includes:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell

No work should be carried out in a household which is isolating because one or more family members has any of the above symptoms or where an individual has been advised to shield. The only exception to this is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household and additional precautions should be taken.

If work needs to be carried out in a household where the occupants are clinically vulnerable, but have not been asked to shield (e.g. the home of someone over 70), additional precautions should also be taken to avoid face-to-face contact and you should be particularly strict about handwashing, coughing and sneezing hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth and disposing of single-use tissues.

Fuel deliveries

If you are concerned about getting fuel deliveries, UKIFDA, the trade body for the fuel distribution industry has an online page that they update regularly with guidance and advice.

We are not aware of any specific schemes to help with the cost of heating oil. However, if you are experiencing hardship and are getting low on oil, your local oil supplier may be able to offer a deferred payment scheme. 

The following helplines may also be able to offer guidance:

  • Citizens Advice can help with identifying and claiming any benefits you may be entitled to - 03444 111 444
  • National Energy Action (NEA) has a Warm and Safe Homes Action Helpline: 0800 304 7159
  •  Some food bank charities may also offer fuel bank vouchers to help with the cost of energy. Most food banks operate on a referral scheme - Citizens Advice can also help with this. 

OFTEC's services

Our office is open for all services.

  • The technical helpline will continue to run as normal.
  • The Find or Check a Technician service is still available online or by phone. However, as registered businesses may be operating with reduced staff or for emergencies only, you may need to ring round more than usual.
  • Our compliance team will only respond to matters where there is a significant risk of harm to people or property.
  • OFTEC Direct is accepting online orders only.

All of our usual contact details are working as normal - any changes will be indicated on the Contact Us page. 

Scam awareness

Whilst the press has been been full of heart-warming stories of communities coming together (at a safe distance), there are sadly also elements in our society that are taking the opportunity to come up with new ways to extort money from the vulnerable.

It further highlights the importance of choosing a reputable business accredited to a Government endorsed scheme such as OFTEC. Always ask to see their identify card and, if you're in any doubt, double check, either by calling the scheme provider or using the online checker. Unfortunately, there are some businesses who claim to be registered, but who are not and have therefore not been through our rigorous inspection process. 

Trustmark have published some very useful information about the types of scams that have started 'doing the rounds' since the Coronavirus restrictions were imposed.

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Specific questions?

If you need more assistance, please email our registration team

As we now are operating with a skeleton staff, we may take slightly longer to respond. Please bear with us during this time.