For Dan Brooks, a Wales & West Utilities gas engineer working in Bath, close contact with the public has always been a core element of his job.
So, the impact of coronavirus has meant a significant change to the way he operates. In an era of lockdown and social distancing Dan has had to quickly adapt to ensure vital repairs can be carried out without unsettling customers.
In the current climate, former Military Provost, Dan, now gets a briefing from the gas emergency call centre on the customer’s circumstances, including any health concerns, prior to a visit.
He attends calls wearing personal, protective equipment and gloves if necessary.
“Even without coronavirus, there’s always a bit of trepidation when you get to a gas emergency, you never know what’s behind the door at the best of times: but your training takes over and you focus on doing your job”, he says.
As with all Wales & West Utilities colleagues, Dan follows strict social distancing guidelines.
“When I knock on the door I take a few steps back and obviously, once I’m in the house, things are different. Usually people would walk me through to their boiler or meter, make me a drink, stand nearby and have a chat. But now I explain what I have to do and then ask them to stand in another room or in a doorway at least two metres away. People are really understanding to be fair and I’ve become an expert at politely declining a cup of tea!”
The father-of-two has noticed a difference in how he is received by customers.
“Normally, the door opens and the customer is glad you’re there to make things safe. At the moment, people are a bit more reserved – there’s a wariness that I totally understand. I try to reassure them, in what I say, where I stand, and how I work, that I’m doing everything I can to stay safe.”
With many elderly people isolated, and no family nearby, Dan is also happy to be a friendly face during these unusual times.
“Ironically though, some people are much more talkative – and that’s understandable too – particularly if people are shielding themselves. It’s obviously tough for them to be cut off from their family and friends for so long. I try and help where I can…from a safe distance of course!”
Keeping Us Connected is a new series from Utility Week in which we highlight the achievements of employees across the utilities sector in getting the UK through lockdown. To nominate a member of your team for recognition, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.