Did you know that there are an estimated 5.8 million small businesses operating across the UK? Small businesses are vital to the UK economy, but a recent survey has found that around 800,000 of those small businesses fear that they may never re-open once the Coronavirus pandemic has ended and lockdown has been fully removed. This information is important to us at the myWindscreen network, because our membership is almost entirely made up of small, independent operators. These businesses are often self-employed one-person operations, small family-run enterprises, or a business that employs a small number of people.
Thankfully, many of our members have been able to carry on delivering their windscreen and automotive glass replacement services more or less as normal, because vehicle glass repairs have generally been deemed essential work. In this context, essential work is loosely defined as anything needed to keep key workers’ cars on the road, or to enable non-self-isolating people to carry out essential travel to meet medical needs, shop for food etc. What our members have been unable to do is to carry out anything deemed non-essential, such as cosmetic work, including window tinting and van conversions. This has had a negative impact on their revenues and therefore on their profits, but hopefully, this type of work will still be there, ready and waiting for them to do once the restrictions have fully eased.
Personal Protective Equipment
Vehicle glass technicians are used to operating using personal protective equipment (PPE). They tend to wear latex or other types of gloves when handling solvents and adhesives, plus respirator-type face masks and of course overalls. What the pandemic with the associated need for increased hygiene and social distancing has done is increase the amount of PPE that the technicians need to use, and therefore increase the costs and time associated with vehicle glass repair. Pre-Covid-19, a technician could use gloves and a respirator for several jobs, taking them off in-between tasks when not absolutely required. New hygiene rules mean that a new pair of gloves is now needed for the whole of each job, and if the respirator has a filter fitted, that probably needs to be changed in-between jobs too. Naturally, social distancing needs to be maintained, and hands washed or sanitised frequently. The coronavirus has been proved to live longest on hard surfaces such as metal, plastics and glass – up to several days in certain circumstances – which means that the vehicle glass technician has to be extremely careful when touching a customer’s vehicle, in case there is any virus present, and disposable overalls may be needed for each job too – all the used PPE then needs to be carefully disposed of.
The impact of the virus
Sadly, some of our members have fallen victim to the virus in a number of ways. In some cases, the vehicle glass technician (or someone in their household) has been found to be symptomatic of the virus, and they have been forced to self-isolate for the obligatory 7 to 14 days – a temporary setback but still a big financial hit. More serious cases have necessitated hospitalisation, which means a longer shut-down and naturally a source of a great deal of fear and uncertainty. Where technicians have a vulnerable person within their households, some businesses have been forced to totally close down as a precaution, even if non-one in the household is symptomatic. It is a worrying (and expensive) time for everyone.
At the time of writing, in England and Northern Ireland, lockdown measures are beginning to be eased. Scotland and Wales are still in total lockdown, but are discussing measures to reduce restrictions. Life will become easier, and hopefully we can avoid the dreaded ‘second spike’ in the number of virus cases. We only have to hope that all our myWindscreen members can make it through the current difficult times, and that our customers will bear with us as our myWindscreen technicians struggle to accommodate their needs during this period of unprecedented restrictions.