In the fifth in our series of Q&A articles with Darke & Taylor staff, we talk to Technical Division Services director, Julian Butler, about:
- working onsite during lockdown
- the importance of Health & Safety & RAMS
- unexpected benefits for the Technical Division from lockdown
Julian Butler has been with D&T for 10 years. As a director of D&T, Julian is responsible for the growth and development of the Technical Services Division. This division is responsible for all things local, including Schools, Colleges, Oxford University, Commercial and Domestic sectors, Blue Chip Companies, High-Net-Worth Individuals and Ultra-Prime Residences.
Q. How has theTest & Inspection (T&I) division performed under lockdown
Very well indeed – in fact, for the end of the first trimester (Jan-Apr 2020), we are ahead of where we were last year in revenue terms. This was despite the UK having suffered an unprecedented slowdown for the six weeks spanning mid-March to end-April, as economic activity virtually ground to a standstill with the COVID-19 lockdown.
The buildings we work in are usually fully occupied, but with the advent of lockdown and empty buildings, we recognised this was an opportunity to keep working, or even to get ahead of where we would usually be; i.e. waiting for the summer holidays for schools, colleges..etc to be vacated. The clients were happy – the T&I still needed to be undertaken to comply with legislation – and our staff were happy – they didn’t need to be furloughed … although working alone in deserted 700-year–old buildings did prove to be spookier than some had imagined!
Q. So, what does Test & Inspection entail in practical terms?
Fixed Wire Testing ensures that your electrical installations are safe. D&T’s electricians carry out these tests and if anything is wrong that needs rectifying, these are noted down as ‘observations’ which are coded according to their danger level (per the IET Wiring Regulations):
- A Code 1 (C1) observation means: ‘ Danger present. Risk of injury. Immediate remedial action required.’
- A Code 2 (C2) observation means: ‘Potentially dangerous – urgent remedial action required.’
- An observation code (FI) means: ‘ Further investigation required without delay.’
- Code 3 means: ‘Improvement recommended.’
Observations are recorded on a Fixed Wiring Report, which is also known as an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) – this should be updated at least every five years. EICRs are required for both Health & Safety legislation and insurance purposes, hence the reason why they cannot be delayed … and hence why we’ve been so busy during lockdown!
Q. What is the scope of your testing?
Our division undertakes at least 300 fixed wire tests annually. We look after around 200 properties for OUES (Oxford University Estate Services), a number of the colleges, various Oxfordshire county council buildings, some schools, and a range of independent commercial properties.
The regularity of testing depends on the circumstances – legislation states every five years to cover wear & tear, but this could be more frequent if there has been significant extension or modification work resulting in additional loading.
Q. What have your learnings been from working during lockdown?
We’ve already discussed the importance of Health & Safety in the workplace [see previous Q&A] when adhering to social distancing rules and safe working practises. That hasn’t been such a significant issue for us, since many of our buildings have been empty during lockdown (as discussed), but communication has been paramount – between our staff and between our clients.
We could have taken the ‘easy’ option and simply furloughed workers and waited for the end of lockdown. However, we’ve been pro-active and showed how it is possible to manage change by the application of a problem-solving mindset.
As a result, I think we’ve learnt how to work more efficiently and effectively, and as a division, we’re now carrying more momentum through to the second trimester, which is great news for D&T.
D&T will continue keep you posted on its response to COVID-19 through a series of Q&A sessions with its directors, project managers, and front-line workers.
If there is a topic you would like to see covered in a Q&A session, please leave a comment on this blog post below and we’ll get back to you.
Thank you once again to everybody for your support during these unprecedented times.