Plumber Richard on the frontline

Plumber Richard Webb is one of our team of dozens of skilled tradespeople delivering emergency and urgent repairs for tenants in the full grip of the pandemic.

Life in 2021 has begun in much the same way as most of 2020 played out – Covid lockdown restrictions placing a premium on staff and tenant safety

Bernicia is continuing to deliver emergency and urgent repairs for tenants as well as carrying out vital servicing of gas, water and electrical installations.

Richard, 51, was one of the Responsive Repairs team and along with the Contact Centre team, raised and carried out more than 500 emergency repairs at properties across the North East over Christmas and New Year alone.

Safe Systems of Work – PPE, social distancing, household ventilation and rigorous hygiene – are the ‘new normal’ for Richard and his colleagues’ in their daily routines.

As he explains, teamwork is the key to their safe and successful delivery of service at a uniquely worrying time in people’s lives.

“We go into people’s homes to do the repairs during the pandemic and it’s a bit worrying – you never know quite what you are going into,” said Richard, working from our Maintenance Depot at Spennymoor for the past 18 months.

“The health and safety side, the firm has always had the PPE readily available.

“When we get to tenants’ doors we ask if anyone in the house has Coronavirus symptoms or if anyone is shielding, or self-isolating.

“That’s often a big surprise to them that we ask if anyone is shielding. It puts them at their ease and lets them know that we have complete interest in their safety.”

Richard wears a face covering , gloves and boot covers at every job, and will don full PPE overalls and respirator mask if the job requires it – gear he will also put on to reassure particular tenants clearly nervous about having people in their homes during lockdown.

“It gives them a sense that we care about them and what we are doing,” he said.

“We can see straight away that it puts them at ease. To go in there and see someone calm down and happy after panicking is a good feeling.

“We clean the area down where we’ve worked with anti-bacterial wipes and clear up before we leave. The comments we’ve had from tenants have all been positive.”

Richard primarily works across the Teesside and County Durham areas – Redcar, Saltburn, Hartlepool, Ferryhill, Barnard Castle, while supporting colleagues with jobs in the Gateshead and Sunderland areas when required.

Typically, he carries out repairs and servicing at between eight and ten homes every day – and has done so right through the pandemic.

“Your own safety is always in the back of your mind,” said Richard. “But Bernicia have been fantastic as a company and really look after you.

“We’ve got sinks in the vans with hot and cold water, soap and hand sanitiser and you feel looked after. The front of the van is my personal space which is kept clean with anti-bacterial wipes.

“The whole team is great. The contact centre staff, administrators, trades lads are great, right through to my line manager Mark Walker and Andy Richardson.

“I love working with them, they really look after you and nothing is too much trouble.”