Q: What guidance should I follow to determine whether my business is considered “essential” or not?
A: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce and has provided further detailed guidance on identifying essential critical infrastructure workers. DHS has generally considered as "essential" all the roles workers in the water treatment industry play in delivering clean, safe water – from manufacturing through the entire chain of distribution to delivery and installation, including technical professionals, service providers, product installers, repair and parts replacement workers and supporting operations workers.
Q: How do I determine if my business can remain open under my state’s Executive Order to “stay at home”?
A: All employers should review in detail any state orders or local ordinances that may directly affect you and make the best decision for your individual business. For businesses remaining open, we strongly recommend that you consider carefully and in detail DHS, CDC and state and local health board releases and develop company guidelines supporting a work structure in line with the DHS guidelines and/or other enforcement guidance you must follow.
Q: How do I talk to my employees about our business not being able to remain open under new orders or guidelines?
A: You need to be candid and open with employees that their health and safety is the first priority.There is much guidance available and repeated often about the best rules and practices for social distancing and maintaining a safe work environment.Work from home and the use of technology are major changes to expect in the work environment short of ceasing business entirely.As noted, DHS and state and local guidance have generally considered the work of the water quality industry as essential and life sustaining.While current orders and directives might change, it is likely that stricter orders or guidelines that might be put in place will still permit the continuation of water infrastructure maintenance and the promise to the public of clean safe water for drinking and for critical health care and manufacturing processes.
Q: How do I prepare my employees to continue work under these new guidelines?
A: The following points are recommended instructions that should be followed at a minimum:
- Review WQA’s Code of Ethics and apply its principles
- Print out a copy of WQA’s letter to the White House, the DHS Essential Services document and the WQA Open Letter and give to all employees who remain on the job during the crisis.
- Refrain from active in-person marketing such as door-to-door contact
- Prioritize duties putting health and safety duties as top priority
- Implement safety protocols for field-service employees
- A work-at-home policy should be mandated for non-health and safety positions
- Communicate your business changes openly on the company website, with signs on the company door, and in training for employees
Q: Should technicians continue to service filtration systems if person-to-person contact is to be avoided?
A: When possible, avoid person-to-person contact and seek alternatives. The first priority for any determination is health and safety, for the customer and for any water treatment employee. Make decisions on a case by case basis maintaining social distancing as you follow CDC guidelines for necessary in-home installations, replacements and repairs. Porch and garage deliveries should be preferred and done whenever feasible. Provide distance instruction for filter replacements, for example.Use technology and video to communicate helpful directions and advice whenever possible. Work smart and work safe, understanding that often your work is critical and necessary for customer health and safety and the delivery of clean safe water.See WQA’s Coronavirus checklist for guidance in responding to the needs of customers.
Q: Should services be limited to drop off only?
A: Again, make every effort to avoid person-to-person contact and seek alternatives when possible. Drop off only may not necessarily be the best option in all situations. You will need to communicate with the customer. Drop off may be preferred but ask if they would like to discuss alternatives if deliveries are too heavy to manage or otherwise unmanageable without assistance. As you speak with the customer, ask them for any additional requests they may have. Again, remember audio and video instruction have become standard for schools and universities.Take full advantage of technology to interact with customers whenever possible.
Q: Are new filtration installations considered “essential?”
A: It depends on the situation and what water quality issues you’re being asked to treat. A private well owner may have an immediate health-related challenge that should be treated. You’ll need to use your best judgment, keeping the prioritization of health and safety of the customer and your employees first. You should review in detail any state orders or local ordinances that may directly affect you and make the best decision for your individual business. For businesses remaining open, we strongly recommend that you consider carefully and in detail DHS, CDC and state and local health board releases and develop company guidelines supporting a work structure in line with the DHS guidelines and/or other enforcement guidance you must follow.
Q: Should we service only accounts that are tied directly to those specifically called out in the DHS guidelines or state ordinance (i.e. food service, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.)?
A: You should prioritize requests for service based on health and safety and those called out directly in guidelines or public decrees as the highest priorities. The guidance cannot cover every scenario; therefore, you will need to review and apply your best judgment based on the facts you have.
Q: Should we curtail our services to residential customers unless there is an urgent problem with their water system, ex: no water to the house or major flooding?
A: Each situation is different, and health and safety are always the top priority. But, this is not necessarily a time to limit ongoing services, but rather to respond to all needs as best you can within the limitations of your business, the health of your own workers and the comfort level they have in addressing each situation. Even routine maintenance and servicing tasks are designed to ensure that POU/POE technologies are delivering healthful water efficiently, safely and effectively, so it is your best judgment weighing all of these many factors and considerations in the guidance to be found.