As the COVID-19 pandemic surges, more and more people are moving to remote work arrangements.

But for many workers – including field service professionals – remote working simply isn’t an option. HVAC professional’s livelihoods depend on being able to visit people’s homes and public spaces to deliver essential repairs and maintenance for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units, and they now find themselves at far greater risk.

As HVAC pros that are entering customers’ homes and interacting with multiple strangers daily, you must take extra care to protect yourselves during this difficult time. Here are six tips for HVAC pros to stay safe and healthy:

Keep Surfaces and Tools Squeaky Clean

Before beginning your work make sure to wipe down any commonly used surfaces, especially doorknobs, with anti-bacterial wipes. A study has shown that coronavirus can live for up to 72 hours on hard surfaces, such as plastic and stainless steel. When entering people’s homes, you can never be too careful. Make sure to also wipe down your tools before and after work to prevent germs from spreading further.

Protect your Face and Hands

There is a lot of debate about the effectiveness of face masks, but there is evidence to suggest that masks can prevent hand-to-mouth transmissions and help to lower the risk of contracting the virus through a cough or sneeze. A study by the International Journal of Infectious Diseases found that when used correctly, masks are very effective in preventing the spread of viral infections. Masks are becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of but, whenever possible, you should wear an N95 mask, which reduces exposure to small particles.

Wearing gloves to cover up any open cuts and wounds is also very important to prevent the risk of infection. This is particularly crucial to remember when you are driving between jobs. Lots of driving means lots of gas – and gas pumps are notoriously covered in germs. Wearing gloves will help to protect you from contracting the virus from them.

Wash Your Hands

Even if you plan to wear gloves, it is absolutely essential to wash your hands well with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It may sound obvious, but washing your hands has been cited as one of the most powerful ways of stemming the spread of the virus. There are a multitude of guides online explaining the most effective methods and even suggestions of songs to sing to keep you entertained for those vital 20 seconds. Try to avoid touching your face, eyes, and mouth as much as possible, even after washing.

If you don’t have access to running water and soap, use hand sanitizer. It’s worth buying a big bottle for your car as well as small ones which you can keep in your tool bag – you never know when you might need it. Hand sanitizer may be in short supply right now, so you should also consider keeping jugs of water, a bottle of liquid soap, and a roll of paper towels in your service van, if all else fails.

Separate Work Clothes From Home Clothes

When you get home from a long day of work, remove all your clothes as soon as you can, including your shoes. Then shower and change into something clean just for home. This will prevent germs from spreading within your house.

While this might seem overly-cautious, different types of microbes can live on clothes for various amounts of time. Changing them before sitting on furniture keeps your home as clean and safe as possible. Washing your clothes a little more regularly than usual will also help to keep you germ-free each day.

Embrace Digital Solutions

While keeping clean is highly important, experts are recommending that everyone practice social distancing. This involves staying at home as much as you can and keeping six feet away from people when you do have to go outside.

Though the nature of your work may mean that you don’t always have the option of social distancing, you should still be mindful of minimizing close contact with customers, as well as their pets, as much as possible, and most certainly ditch the customary handshake. Use digital field service management software — particularly voice-based, hands-free features — for client interactions, such as scheduling appointments, recording customer details, and use digital payments to avoid handling cash (a significant germ-carrier). This will minimize exposure to potential harmful viruses and bacteria.

Encourage Employees’ Sick Leave

If you’re an employer, it is absolutely crucial that your employees are aware of the importance of taking a sick day if they feel unwell. Governments and companies globally are encouraging workers to stay at home if they begin to feel even mild symptoms, to stem the spread of the virus. Though having employees off sick is tough for business, it is essential at this difficult time to value the health of yourself, your employees, and others around you first and foremost.

Likewise, when taking on jobs, it’s important to be vigilant and pragmatic. If you walk into a customer’s house and they seem unwell, it may be better to decline the work than take any risks.

This advice should be followed not just now but throughout the year – particularly during flu season. When the virus eventually subsides, one silver lining of the whole ordeal may be that we are more aware of our personal hygiene and place a greater value on our health. Until then, it is important to protect yourself, make difficult but practical decisions and, above all else, wash your hands. 

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