Supporting communities across North Wales
Whether they’ve been working from home or out on the network, during the Coronavirus pandemic our team in North and Mid Wales have been keeping the gas flowing safely, preparing our network for green gas like hydrogen and biomethane, and supporting the most vulnerable in our communities.
Find out more about what they've been doing...
Matt Hughes is one of the many gas engineers who have been acting as key workers throughout the pandemic. Matt, a First Line Manager from Wrexham, is part of the team working round the clock to keep north Wales’ energy safe and secure.
His start to lockdown was a little different to that of his colleagues, as he explains:
“I was on holiday in Mexico at the start of the lockdown, and after a few frantic days of not knowing how and when we would be able to get home, we got a rescue flight home.
“Arriving back at an empty airport, I self-isolated and spent time responding to emails and telephone calls at home. In my role I am usually based out of our Wrexham depot, but things had changed overnight and now, when not out on site, I work from home.
“As key workers, working to keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses, our focus has remained the same whatever the pandemic has thrown at us. I’m honoured to have played a small part in keeping local communities safe.”
If engineers from Wales & West Utilities need to enter your home, they are taking precautions to keep everyone safe. This includes washing their hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser before entering and wearing face coverings and eye protection in your home. Additionally, they may ask you to open windows and stand in another room while they are working.
“To do our work we have to enter people’s so we’re taking extra steps to protect customers and colleagues alike.”
Matt feels grateful that his job meant it was business as usual for him.
“During my working week I usually spend a great deal of time visiting the teams I manage across north Wales and that has continued. And while I work at home the rest of the time, I feel lucky that I still am able to speak to my colleagues regularly.
“That said I can’t wait until a time when we’re all back in the office together. It’s been the one thing I’ve missed tremendously. There is no substitute for the office relationships – both professionally and personally.”
Wrexham’s Joan Maw works in the Operations Health and Safety team at Wales & West Utilities and at the start of the pandemic set up her own ‘scrub hub’ in a bid to help minimise the risk of the coronavirus infection to healthcare workers across north Wales.
Joan, a keen sewer, saw a Facebook post which saw her swap the office for the sewing machine and put her skills to good use in helping make protective clothing.
“I saw a post from a nurse who had set up ‘For the Love of Scrubs’ and was looking for volunteer sewers to make scrubs, hats, washbags and headbands which would then be distributed to workers on the frontline.
“As a keen seamstress I thought could use my time wisely to help out during the crisis.”
Joan got to work, initially setting up her sewing machine in the garden to make washbags that healthcare workers could use to take home their scrubs, popping everything straight into the washing machine to reduce the risk of infection.
A mother of four, Joan has made over 100 washbags and 24 full sets of scrubs. Her washbags have been distributed to both Mold and Deeside Community Hospitals, whilst the scrubs went to the mental health ward at Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital.
“This was just one way to help during the crisis. I’m thrilled to have been able to make so many washbags that have proved useful to the people working on the frontline.”
“When I learnt of the need for scrubs on the mental health ward at Wrexham Maelor I set about ordering more fabric. I am trained and have been working as a mental health first-aider at Wales & West Utilities for over three years now, so the connection is there!
“If my effort helps just a little, I’m happy – it’s a small price considering the risks our healthcare heroes are taking every day.”
Our apprentices were mid-way through their theory and practical learning when the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in the UK-wide lockdown in March. With apprentice training usually split between college or our own training academies in Treforest and Bridgwater and practical experience as a gas engineer, learning swiftly moved online.
Prestatyn’s Tyran Simmons, 34, was nearing the end of the first year of his apprenticeship - learning the skills needed to look after the pipes that keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses, when lockdown happened. He explains:
“Prior to Covid I was in college full time – I was doing a condensed course over a year, instead of the usual two. Luckily, I had focussed on the practical side of things so when lockdown was announced I had mostly theory work to complete.
“The college were pretty quick to get online learning up and running and before I knew it, this became the norm.
“Whilst things took longer working in this way, it has shown that you can complete a vocational apprenticeship away from college.
“I am glad that everything moved quickly to make sure that we didn’t miss out on learning.
“This year I am working four days out on site, so the online learning is limited to one day – but this is fine with me, I love the practical side of things.
“When I’d started out as an apprentice, never did I think I’d be learning at home for the best part of a year, but it’s still been fun – and I’m looking forward to taking the next step in my career.”
Helen Maxwell, an Operational Assistant, has been working throughout the pandemic but quickly adapted for homeworking after the initial lockdown in March was announced.
Helen, who ordinarily works out of the company’s Colwyn Bay depot, explains:
“My job involves working in partnership with local authorities across north Wales to make sure we have the right permissions to allow us to work in the highway: upgrading the gas network, making new connections and carrying out gas emergency work.
“In March 2020 we switched from office to home working and I packed up my laptop and files and started immediately. Our systems allow us to access files from anywhere and luckily my home Wi-Fi was also up to the job!”
Helen believes that year has had its ups and downs and said:
“Initially homeworking was a novelty, the sun was shining, and work continued in its normal way, but as time went on, I began to miss the buzz of the office and the benefits of those face-to-face relationships with colleagues.
“Having my laptop and mobile phone means that I can do my job – it’s proved that homeworking can be successful.
“However even with its advantages and disadvantages, I am certainly looking forward to a time when we can be together as a team again. There is no substitute for those personal relationships and it’s something I miss greatly.”