As I sit here writing this column on March 12, 10 more cases of COVID-19 were just confirmed in my home state of Michigan, bringing the state total to 12. As of this afternoon, the total confirmed cases in the United States was 1,215, with 36 deaths, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It’s been quite the week, with the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, President Donald Trump enacting a travel ban to most of Europe, the NBA suspending its season, the NCAA canceling tournaments, the MLB cancelling spring training and the list goes on. Oh, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just announced all schools will close until April 6. It’s all surreal — almost like we’re living in the beginning of a cheesy Sci-Fi movie.
And the sports and education arenas are not the only ones feeling the pressure. Just this morning, Plumbing & Mechanical parent company, BNP Media, announced the postponement of all company events scheduled to take place between April and June.
AD announced earlier this week it will be shifting to a virtual format for its Industrial and Safety – U.S. and PHCP spring network meetings. The PHCC Educational Foundation’s Essentials of Project Management course was cancelled. And I’m certain more event cancellations will be announced in coming weeks.
So what does all this mean for plumbing contractors? By nature of their jobs, plumbers work in conditions that puts them in contact with dangerous pathogens every day. Therefore, taking precautions to prevent contact with wastewater and proper hand and arm hygiene is a matter of good practice for plumbers, according to IAPMO Executive Vice President of Advocacy and Research Pete DeMarco.
“For as long as the pandemic is still active, it should be assumed by anyone working on a sanitary drainage system that the virus is present,” DeMarco writes.
“Considering the potential to come into contact with water and aerosols that contain the coronavirus when working on sanitary systems or sewers, it is highly recommended that plumbers wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE), including a full face shield that is worn over safety glasses, and gloves.”
Read more from DeMarco on how plumbers can protect themselves against the COVID-19 pandemic in this month’s issue on Page 36.
According to Michael Copp, executive vice president, PHCC — National Association, plumbing contractors should prepare now to reduce the impact on their businesses,
“The biggest takeaway for me is that regular communication and having a plan are critical steps that contractors should take,” he said in a statement. “Given that plumbers and HVAC technicians are in regular contact with the general public, many of whom travel abroad, they need up-to-date information about how to best protect themselves (and their families) and understand employer policies and procedures to follow. As Becky Norman (2020) writes in her article, ‘Coronavirus: How should HR prepare?’ ‘Waiting for the infection to arrive before thinking about your approach to the situation could contribute to its outbreak and spread within your business and wider community.’”
So what should contractors be doing? According to McCarthy Tétrault, a Canadian employment and labor law firm, now is a good time to educate employees about the symptoms of coronavirus and any prevention measures in place. Encourage employees to wash their hands often. If an employee is sick, require them to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. Businesses should also prepare a plan by establishing a process to obtain and implement local public health directives. For more tips, visit http://bit.ly/33lMOfi.
In addition, PHCC provides these suggested practices: Establish accommodations for flexibility among workers and communicate expectations; use social media outlets, e-mail communications and websites to connect with customers; and continue to do business — making any necessary accommodations — and let your customers know that you are there to provide safe, quality service to their homes and businesses.
It’s better to have a plan in place just in case the worst case scenario becomes reality. As the famous Benjamin Franklin quote goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”