Last updated - 27/01/2021

Page updates:

  • Added a link to the BSI standard for safe working during the pandemic - 27/01/2021.
  • Added list of training centres that have confirmed to us that they are remaining open - 13/01/2021.
  • New national lockdown in England from 5th January 2021 - tradespeople may continue to work in people's homes, however those who are clinically vulnerable have been advised not to go to work - 05/01/2021.
  • Stay at Home requirement in most areas of Scotland - essential repair, maintenance and installation work only - 04/01/2021.
  • Wales at Alert Level 4 since 20/12/2020.
  • Northern Ireland - new restrictions from 26/12/2020.
  • Republic of Ireland - Level 5 restrictions in place - essential repair, maintenance and installation work only.

No one can deny that 2020 was a 'challenging' year and as we move into 2021, the challenges are looking set to continue, despite the widely heralded vaccine roll out.  Thankfully for our sector, the maintenance of heating and hot water are seen throughout the UK and Ireland as essential services and may largely continue when other sectors have been instructed to shut their doors. Having said that, guidance and rules surrounding working in other people's homes do vary from region to region, so it's important to check locally whether there are limitations to the type of work that can continue - for example some areas state emergency repairs and maintenance only.

This page aims to provide links to the latest official guidance but as you are aware, this is subject to change with little or no notice so please refresh the page and also check the last updated date at the top and always double check your local rules as they may be different.

We hope that you find the information on this page helpful, please email us if you have any feedback or further questions. 

Coronavirus - information for heating technicians

Follow the links below to quickly access the information section you need. 

1- OFTEC Services

Our offices are now fully open although most staff are working from home so that others can work according to the social distancing guidelines. 

  • Our technical helpline is taking enquiries as normal
  • Registration services is offering all services and benefits. The team are processing applications and renewals as quickly as possible. 
  • OFTEC Direct has reopened for all products - although we are only accepting orders through the website, if you haven't already created an online account for the shop - please click here. There may be a slight delay to shipments to Ireland, as our usual courier has temporarily suspended deliveries, however we are working hard to get alternatives set up and will keep anyone placing an order for delivery in Ireland informed of despatch dates. 
  • Inspections are continuing as normal - see below.

Many OFTEC functions and services can be accessed online - these will remain unchanged and include:

If you need to contact us, you can find full details on our contact us page.

2 - Maintaining your registration during the restrictions

  • Training courses
  • It is our understanding that the majority of training centres will remain open during the tighter restrictions put in place in December 2020 and January 2021 - however, due to social distancing measures there are fewer places on each course so you may need to book a course further ahead than usual. Here's a list of those centres who have confirmed they will stay open. 

    Our 'find your local centre' can be found here - please note, you may need to increase the search distance more than usual to find a centre with course availability. Your chosen centre will advise on any changes to usual practices to ensure the safety of staff and trainees. For further information about training and assessments, please email David Knipe or telephone 07866 507265

    If you are not able to book onto a training course before your qualifications expire, please email our registration team, including your registration number and date of the course you have managed to book (please provide a copy of your booking confirmation). We will review the information provided and confirm whether we can extend your qualification to enable you to maintain your OFTEC registration. 

  • Inspections
  • All OFTEC inspection work has now resumed. Our inspectors have completed a risk assessment for carrying out inspections and we have adopted the interim policy of only inspecting equipment located outside - eg external boilers, heat pumps and oil tanks. If you are due an inspection, your regional inspector will be in touch to make the necessary arrangements, please do all you can to facilitate the inspection as quickly as possible. OFTEC inspectors observe a new code of conduct and work in accordance with government guidance. This code of conduct reflects the need for social distancing and good hygiene practice during an inspection. To avoid handling of papers, your business documents can be emailed to the inspector beforehand. 

    If you have any concerns over an inspection, please contact our inspections team.       

3 - Keeping your customers informed

Many customers are anxious about having tradespeople visit their home at this time and need reassuring about the extra measures you are taking to keep them (and you) safe.

Whilst restrictions are in place, it is a really sensible idea to keep your existing and potential customers informed. If you have a website or social media pages, make it clear whether or not you are working and the type of work that you are doing at the moment eg emergency breakdowns only, reduced hours or open as usual.

It's also good practice to outline any extra precautions you are taking or changes to your working practices designed to keep both you and your customers safe – publish them clearly on your website or social media page. If you do not have anywhere to publish them, you could email or post a new working practices document to your customer so that they can read it through before you arrive on site. 

Clearly demonstrating that you've considered the potential risks and put in place ways to reduce them will help reassure customers who are anxious about tradespeople coming into their home. Plus, by letting your customers know about changes to your working practices in advance, it could save aggravation once you arrive or when you ask for payment.

Please also take a moment to read through the guidance for 'Working Safely during Covid-19 in Other People's Homes' it's packed with sensible advice on the precautions you should be taking (and what you should expect your customers to do prior and during your visit).

BSI, working with a team of international experts, published a new standard in January 2021: "PD ISO/PAS 45005:2020, Occupational health and safety management - General guidelines for safe working during the COVID-19 pandemic". This new standard is FREE to download and section 4.4.3 relates specifically to 'Working in other people’s homes'. 

 

4 - Supporting your customers

To avoid unnecessary call outs or double visits, we've provided some basic 'trouble-shooting' tips that you could run through with your customer before you visit. This may help diagnose an issue remotely and allow you to obtain necessary parts before visiting, in some cases, you may even be able to help your customer fix a simple issue themselves by using a video call. You may also like to read our consumer advice page

5 - Fuel deliveries

Your customers may be concerned about getting fuel deliveries, UKIFDA the trade body for the fuel distribution industry, can provide details of their local approved delivery companies. You could also encourage older customers to sign up to their Cold Weather Priority Scheme

6 - Getting paid on time

In our recent survey, some businesses reported more issues than usual in getting paid for work. There is a section on the Small Business Commissioner website which may help. Alternatively, the FSB (UK only) provides free debt recovery support for their members (OFTEC registered businesses can save £30 off membership using code OFTEC30) click here for details. 

7 - Guidance for what you can and can't do in each region

All businesses are different and you need to be familiar with the official guidance for your region so that you can make the right decisions about the work you take on and the changes to working practices you need to introduce to keep your staff, families and customers safe.

The Work Safe. Safe Work campaign has straightforward, useful advice about working in other people's homes - it was produced by TrustMark and so is aimed at the UK market, but the advice is sensible for Ireland too.

Links to official guidance to restrictions and on working in other people's homes for each region can be found here:

Please note, whatever the level of restrictions in your area: 

  • No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has tested positive for coronavirus or who is experiencing coronavirus symptoms, however mild, or where someone in their household has symptoms. This includes:
    • a new continuous cough
    • high temperature
    • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia).
  • No work should be carried out in a household which is isolating because one or more family members has symptoms. The only exception to this is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household and additional precautions should be taken.
  • If work needs to be carried out in a household where the occupants are clinically vulnerable, additional precautions should also be taken to avoid face-to-face contact and you should be particularly strict about handwashing, coughing and sneezing hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth and disposing of single-use tissues.

8 - Official financial support schemes

Whilst most heating businesses have reported healthy order books, no one can predict what prolonged restrictions will do to customer confidence and ability to invest in upgrades to their homes. If you find that your business income is down, you may want to investigate whether you are eligible to financial support from the UK or Irish governments.

UK

The UK government set up an unprecedented number of support schemes to help businesses survive the lockdown. These are designed to help with cashflow, provide an income for PAYE employees and the self employed (although we are aware that there are some individuals or business that have unfortunately not been eligible for any support).

Additional information

Republic of Ireland

There are a number of support schemes for businesses in the Republic:

9 - Help for individuals

  • As well as the impact on businesses, social isolation can have a negative effect on our mental wellbeing - you may find some of these online guides useful at this time.
  • Many product manufacturers are providing free online product training - it doesn't beat getting your hands onto products in a training room, but it can be a good introduction to products or brands you haven't used before. Search for the brands you are interested in on their website or You Tube channels. 
  • Some of the centres in our approved training network have made part of the course online rather than in person which you may find more convenient. Speak to your local centre for more details.
  • The UK government has published a FREE TO USE online learning platform covering everything from basic numeracy to advanced digital marketing skills.

10 - Health and Safety advice

The Health and Safety Executive and Health and Safety Authority in Ireland have also issued advice for the workplace which can be viewed online:

HSE have issued further guidance on how they will be regulating occupational health and safety during the Coronavirus outbreak.

11 - Where to find additional help

There is a UK government web page which links to a host of organisations offering support to individuals and businesses at this time.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) provides free HR, H&S and legal advice to their members as well as debt recovery support and useful webinars. Some of this advice is also available to non-members. Their regional reps are also extremely knowledgeable and can offer useful advice for small businesses. If you are considering joining the FSB, OFTEC registered businesses can save the £30 joining fee by following this link and quoting OFTEC30.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) sends out regular guidance by email for businesses, their emails flag important deadlines for receiving money from grants or support schemes - sign up here.

There is a network of regional Growth Hubs in the UK that offer free support for businesses - this includes free training and free one to one business advice. Click here to find your local office or call 0300 456 3565. Many also host free online webinars or training on a host of topics such as marketing your business and can also offer grants to support business growth.

12 - Keeping you updated

We will notify you of any changes in the service we offer via email, our website and social media - make sure you follow @OFTEC on Twitter for the latest updates.

If you are changing contact details, please update your account at www.ofteconline.com to keep receiving Oil Installer and E-News. Remember, if you are a sole trader, you need to update your business details as well as technician details.

We sincerely hope that everyone is managing to look after themselves and their families in these uncertain times.

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Specific questions?

If you need more assistance, please email our registration team

As we now are operating with a skeleton staff, we may take slightly longer to respond. Please bear with us during this time.