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COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work, and the folk at Plumbmaster has found safety the best asset. Kathryn Kernohan finds out the full story.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all elements of our lives - including our work, our health and our community connection - and sadly the plumbing industry has not been immune.
When the team from Melbourne’s Plumbmaster received a query about COVID-19 from a real estate agent earlier in the year, they realised there was an opportunity to pivot their services to help during the crisis.
“As the crisis started to unfold in February and March, we recognised that we would have to change our business practices. That’s because, as a maintenance-focused business, we were constantly in and out of people’s homes and we had to protect the health of our clients and our staff,” says Plumbmaster CEO Lisa Leening.
“One day we had a call from a real estate agent who told us they had a tenant who was self-isolating and they needed urgent plumbing work. We weren’t set up to safely do that, which meant the poor tenant was dealing with a leaking roof and the landlord was unable to assist. We just thought, we need to find a way to help these people.”
Lisa and her husband Adam Leening, Plumbmaster’s Director, spoke to Master Plumbers’ OH&S and Return to Work Manager Frank Geremia about the gap they noticed. They quickly found that there weren’t any other businesses set up at the time to provide plumbing services to COVID-positive sites or suspected COVID-positive sites.
“We then went out and partnered with a company to find the best PPE [personal protective equipment] we could, superior to what they have in hospitals. Our team are safer in these suits, doing a job, than you would be going into the local supermarket,” says Adam.
“Lisa is the one who is great with forward planning, more so than us plumbers. She was the one who first saw the opportunity where we could solve problems for clients and continue to provide plumbing services while ensuring the safety of everyone involved.”
The Plumbmaster team has reached out to its domestic, commercial and industrial clients, including agedcare facilities, to inform them about the new service. Its first booked job utilising PPE was replacing a hot water system at a private residence.
“This has not been about making money, it is more about serving our current clients safely and giving our clients the best opportunities to have their issues solved. We see it as a good solution for people who need to isolate for whatever reason,” says Lisa.
Because Plumbmaster focuses on maintenance services for real estate agents, body corporates and private residences, Adam and Lisa have not seen a decrease in business requests during the pandemic, however like many other businesses have had several non-urgent jobs and projects put on the backburner.
COVID-19 guidelines have meant the company has split its plumbers into three teams of three people, with teams kept separate from each other.
“It means if one person from a team gets sick, we can quarantine the whole team and the other two teams can continue to work,” says Adam.
“It can be difficult in the sense that if we have one team in Brunswick and they need a lift or something, and we have another team nearby, they can’t help each other out like they would have before.
“That said, our clients and other people we deal with are really understanding and appreciative because we are being so vigilant around the rules and guidelines, it makes them feel more comfortable.”
Like everyone, Adam and Lisa hope that life returns to normal as soon as possible, and have already thought about alternative uses for a potential surplus of PPE if that is the case.
“This period has highlighted opportunities of ways we might work differently in the future, for example we could use the suits working in a drug lab or similar sites. This has opened new opportunities for us, but of course we hope COVID ends soon and things can start to get back to normal.”