Sample: Field Technician Risk Profile
This risk profile has been determined for field technicians in DSM. The profile shows frequency, or how many people in a day; duration, or length of typical interaction; and variety, or the number of different people.*
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, social distancing, business shutdowns and mass work-from-home policies significantly impacted utility providers, ranging from changing electric load patterns to increased home internet usage. Utility companies were better prepared than most for business interruption and able to execute service continuity plans that were already in place. However, lower industrial power demand and rising consumer defaults hurt cash flows and balance sheets. As lockdowns eased, the focus has shifted toward a safe return: how to bring more workers back to their jobs and to ramp up operations as demand begins to rise. At the same time, utilities should recognize the operational shifts experienced in the sector and understand which of the temporary disruptions they have experienced are likely to persist.
Utility organizations have deployed mass work-from-home solutions for workers who are able to do so. This trend should be expected to continue as a hybrid solution, ensuring the health and safety of utility workers across the Iowa region. For those who can’t work from home, ensuring proper social distancing and equipment will be key to limiting the spread of COVID-19 amongst the utility workforce.
Suspension of Shutoffs
Utility providers generally followed a moratorium on disconnections during the spring to ease financial burdens on vulnerable consumers. As a result, some utility providers anticipated cash flow challenges in the following few months. Disconnections are now regulated through Iowa Utilities Board guidance issued in May.
As utility companies manage the significant impacts of COVID-19, organizations have revisited their sequestering policies for critical facilities. Ensuring that the required resources exist and are attuned to social distancing rules will be key.
Expand Payment Options
To better accommodate the financial difficulties that many customers experienced during the pandemic, some utility companies have expanded customer payment options. These new options allow utility companies to handle bad debt that resulted from the suspension of shutoffs and become more stable during future economic shocks.
Health & Sanitation
- Conduct a health screening with all employees before their shifts in accordance with the most up-to-date recommendations from the local public health department.
- Consider conducting a COVID-19 specific phone assessment before scheduling work assignments within a customer’s home or business.
- Encourage employees who feel sick to stay home. Employees who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should consult CDC guidance on when to self-quarantine.
- Train all employees on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
- Face coverings and other PPE should be worn by employees and customers in accordance with the most up-to-date recommendations from the local public health department.
- Cloth face coverings or masks should not be worn if their use creates a new risk (for example, interferes with driving or vision, or contributes to heat-related illness) that exceeds their COVID-19 related benefits of slowing the spread of the virus.
- Provide tissues and no-touch trash cans.
- Place handwashing stations or hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol in multiple locations throughout the workplace for workers and customers. Use touch-free stations where possible.
- Clean high touch surfaces and shared objects once a day.
- You may want to either clean more frequently or choose to disinfect (in addition to cleaning) in shared spaces if certain conditions apply that can increase the risk of infection from touching surfaces:
- High transmission of COVID-19 in your community
- Low number of people wearing masks
- Infrequent hand hygiene
- The space is occupied by people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19
- If there has been a sick person or someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in your facility within the last 24 hours, you should clean AND disinfect the space.
- Provide sanitizing materials so high-touch surfaces (e.g., equipment, tools, countertops, railings, door handles) can be wiped down, as needed.
- Do not share materials such as clip boards, pens, or touchscreens if possible.
- Utility repair trucks should have handwashing materials and supplies, masks, and cleaning supplies for tools and materials.
- Gloves should be worn at all times while on-site. The type of glove worn should be appropriate to the task. If gloves are not typically required for the task, then any type of glove is acceptable, including latex gloves. Gloves should not be shared.
Process & Space Modifications
- Maintain social distancing at the worksite.
- Alter the workspace using engineering controls to prevent exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Modify the alignment of workstations where feasible. For example, redesign workstations so workers are not facing each other.
- Establish, where possible, physical barriers between workers, and between workers and customers.
- Use strip curtains, plastic barriers, or similar materials to create impermeable dividers or partitions.
- Close or limit access to common areas where employees are likely to congregate and interact, such as break rooms, parking lots, and in entrance/exit areas.
- Consider making foot-traffic single direction in narrow or confined areas, such as aisles and stairwells, to encourage single-file movement at a 6-foot distance.
- Use visual cues such as floor decals, colored tape, and signs to remind workers to maintain distance of 6 feet from others, including at their workstation and in break areas.
- Consider maintaining small groups of workers in teams (cohorting) to reduce the number of coworkers each person is exposed to.
- Provide additional vehicles for transport to the worksite to limit the number of people riding together.
- Employees will be encouraged to stagger breaks and lunches, if practicable, to reduce staff interactions.
- Make sure the workspace is well ventilated.
- Work with facilities management to adjust the ventilation so that the maximum amount of fresh air is delivered to occupied spaces while maintaining the humidity at 40-60%.
- Portable high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units may be considered to remove contaminants in the air of poorly ventilated areas.
- Post signs and reminders at entrances, in work vehicles and in strategic places providing instruction on social distancing, hand hygiene, use of cloth face coverings or masks and cough and sneeze etiquette. Signs should be accessible for people with disabilities (e.g., large print), easy to understand and may include signs for non-English speakers, as needed.
- Businesses should use messaging to remind employees of steps they should be taking to protect their own health while at work.
- Ensure clear communication with customers regarding billing and payments, access to facilities, customer service options, monitoring of service impacts, etc.
Providing Critical Infrastructure
Utilities are working to provide consumers with support they need to continue their daily lives during restrictions. In April, Mediacom partnered with Des Moines Public Schools to provide free Internet to approximately 1,800 homes lacking broadband access for students to continue their studies with the support of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.
Financial Relief and Assistance
As individuals and businesses face financial distress, utility organizations are stepping into a humanitarian role, providing essential services while delaying payments and creating payment plans that offer flexibility to those impacted. Additionally, MidAmerican Energy has donated $500,000 to over 30 organizations serving food banks, community foundations, and United Way agencies that address hunger and other community needs
The business function playbooks include takeaways that are specific to professional functions that could be present in any business, regardless of industry.
*We note that these assessments are qualitative and based on expert-led judgment (Johns Hopkins, 2020). Currently, there are not enough detailed data available to enable quantitative risk stratification. Businesses will need to make decisions about re-initiating business activities before there are validated data to know the precise levels of risk.
The Greater Des Moines Partnership's DSM Forward playbook is not intended to constitute legal advice or provide specific direction
. The preparation of a business continuity or preparations plan should be undertaken with the advice and direction of appropriate specialists and personnel, in consideration of the unique circumstances impacting each business. Third-party websites or material linked to or referenced in DSM Forward are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation of The Partnership of that material or its authors.
Last updated: 5/18/2021