How Benedict Electrical is Handling the Challenges Presented by COVID-19 Pandemic
April 22, 2020
By Stephen Benedict
It is very scary to realize that our entire world has changed so drastically with the COVID-19 pandemic. As electricians and small business owners, the word “essential services” quickly became part of our everyday vocabulary. Fortunately, Benedict Electrical Contracting Limited falls into the category of essential services. We provide electrical services for projects at the local hospital, Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS), several local Long-Term Care facilities, manufacturing plants, farms, restaurants and municipal housing. These services allow us to continue to operate in some capacity so that we do not have to shut our business down completely. We have an amazing team, including apprentices and journeymen with young families. All employees have been laid-off or have chosen to use up vacation time, except for 2 full-time employees and the business owners (Myself, Wayne, Marg and Mary Ann). We have also been able to bring our employees back to work for COVID-19 specific projects, which must be completed very quickly, and therefore, require all hands-on deck. For example, Benedict Electrical provided electrical for the COVID-19 assessment center: pricing, sourcing materials and installation was completed in 5 days. We also set up a backup generator and Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) at the Bayshore Community Center/OHL Arena as they have transformed it into a COVID-19 Field Hospital. That was a huge project that was completed in 10 days.
The challenge we face now is navigating the information about COVID-19 as well as the rules and regulations, which change on a daily basis. In terms of keeping our employees safe, there are no specific guidelines as to which PPE should be worn on each specific site – those decisions are often left to business owners or site operators.
Appropriate PPE has been provided when we work in Long Term Care facilities. In other environments, we work with the general contractor to stagger trades so that only one trade is on the site at a time. At Benedict Electrical, we now have one employee per van, which means we often send 2 or 3 vehicles to sites that require more than one employee. Marg and Mary Ann have also done a great job at sourcing the appropriate PPE to keep our employees safe, despite shortages of masks, hand sanitizer and gloves. We provide hand sanitizer in each work vehicle. Now that we know that community spread has occurred in Grey-Bruce and that COVID-19 can be carried by asymptomatic carriers, we will be providing masks when employees must be within 2 meters of one another in order to complete a project.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local industry has been huge. Every time a customer calls and asks for an electrical service to be provided immediately, we have to ask if that service is essential or if it can wait until the pandemic is over. In an industry where most jobs are completed in pairs or with multiple trades on one site, we have to determine how to work safely without risking the health of our employees. Our employees have had to develop the skill of asking “screening questions” when customers are encountered on a site. Employees must also be comfortable with answering screening questions when they enter a site.
There is so much uncertainty in the industry right now. Benedict Electrical is grateful to have been chosen to help prepare GBHS Owen Sound for the increased needs of COVID-19 with the Assessment Trailer to the Field Hospital. We are so thankful for our hardworking and loyal team, and to our understanding and loyal customers. Like many small businesses, we are concerned because of the uncertainty surrounding the length of the pandemic and how it will impact our company in the months to come. We are lucky in that we haven’t had to apply for government relief or wage subsidy programs yet, but we may have to in the future depending on the length of the pandemic.
Benedict Electrical would like to say, “stay safe, stay healthy, stay at home – this will pass.”