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Run a Handyperson Service
This guide is aimed at operational managers of Handyperson Services in England. It provides a range of practical information and resources to help you manage an efficient and effective service.
As with all our guides, if you have any suggestions on how we could improve or expand the content for the benefit of others across the country then please get in touch.
What Is a Handyperson Service?
If you look in a dictionary, a handyperson is “a person skilled at a wide range of odd jobs, typically around the home.”
But there is another breed of Handyperson. Those commissioned by the public sector aren’t just about delivering “odd jobs”. They are a “Handyperson Service”. They still turn up in a van and do jobs around the home, but they do much more besides.
Handyperson Services have been around in one guise or another for a long time, funded as a public service for more than 25 years. Each service is individually commissioned and developed to meet local needs, but they all have 3 things in common:
1. The foot in the door
A Handyperson Service is often the first ‘public service’ that a vulnerable householder will call. Because they are essentially a tradesperson, there is not the stigma or fear that is sometimes associated with a call to social services, for example. This also means that a Handyperson may often gain confidence and trust where other professionals may not.
In addition to delivering the practical tasks they’ve been asked to do, a Handyperson will have the soft skills needed to delve a little deeper into the customer’s situation, keeping their eyes and ears open to other issues that could be affecting the customer (even if they have not identified such a need themselves).
This could be insulation measures for a cold home, a need for home adaptations or a referral for a welfare benefits check. The solutions may be provided by a Home Improvement Agency or through an onward referral to a trusted local partner.
2. Jobs that make the home safer
Essentially a Handyperson is a skilled and trusted tradesperson visiting the house to ‘fit’ things. But a Handyperson Service often fits things that make the home safer too – like security fittings or grabrails. They’re increasingly used to aid in timely discharge from the hospital and carry out fall prevention work.
Which jobs do make the home safer though? For example, fitting a grab-rail is a small practical task regularly carried out by Handyperson Services that clearly helps to make a home safer. This would be opposed to assembling some flat-pack furniture, as whilst this is clearly practical work, its purpose is not focussed on safety.
The two types of jobs described above are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, there could be a situation whereby the assembly of a flat-pack dining suite, could be considered a means of keeping a person safe, especially if their current dining arrangements mean eating hot food from their lap on a sofa in front of the TV!
Another example could include gardening. A path clearance would facilitate safe access in and out of the home, thereby adding safety, whereas weeding a flowerbed may not.
However, could it not also be argued that improving the visual appearance of a person’s garden not only improves their mental wellbeing, but also makes them less likely to be a victim of opportunistic crime/abuse, by virtue of an unkempt garden signifying that a vulnerable person lives at the property?
3. Home safety check
Most Handyperson Services will carry out a short assessment during their visit – a home safety check. This will typically look at issues such as:
- Falls risks
- Security issues
- Fire safety
- Other hazards
- Items needing repair
- Social isolation
Sometimes this will highlight further jobs for the Handyperson to carry out, like removing trip hazards or fitting draught excluders. In other cases, it may result in a referral for other services such as home adaptations or loft insulation. This ‘extra goodness’ does come at a cost.
While an ‘odd-job’ Handyperson may charge £35 to £40 per hour, Handyperson Services typically cost £55 to £60 per job when you consider staff, vehicles, tools, etc. Some Services seek to cover some of this cost through a fee (£16.57 per hour on average) with commissioners subsidising the balance.
In other areas, commissioners fully fund Handyperson Services for specific vulnerable groups. For instance, Manchester Care & Repair provides one of England’s largest Handyperson services, and all its services are offered to eligible customers completely free of charge.
When operating a handyperson service specialising in home adaptations, conducting risk assessments is essential for ensuring clients’ and service providers’ safety and wellbeing.
Risk assessments involve identifying potential hazards and evaluating the associated risks to implement appropriate preventive measures. By proactively assessing potential dangers, such as electrical hazards, structural instability, or slip-and-fall risks, the service provider can minimise the likelihood of accidents and injuries.
Failure to conduct risk assessments can have serious implications, including accidents, property damage, legal liabilities, and reputational harm. Prioritising risk assessments allow for a safer working environment, instils confidence in clients, and helps maintain a professional and responsible approach to service delivery.
This risk assessment pro-forma, created by Regional Advisor Stephen Archer, effectively identifies and manages potential hazards in Handyperson operations.
Assessing the Risk
The ‘Risk Assessment’ scoring process is based on the acronym CEP
C = Consequences – the most probable outcome of the potential accident
E = Exposure – the frequency of occurrence of the hazard event
P = Probability – the likelihood of an accident occurring before the completion of work
Timescales for Action
The ‘risk score’ will enable you to make a judgement on how fast any action may need to be implemented to control, reduce or eliminate the risk identified whilst the work/task is being carried out.
|0-100||the risk could be acceptable||LOW|
|100-200||hazard requires attention||MEDIUM|
|200 +||hazard requires urgent attention/action for control measures||HIGH|
It is the Assessor’s responsibility to evaluate the priority timescales for any actions, taking into account the above classifications, for more complex tasks further ‘qualitative analysis’ may be required.
To make a clear judgement on timescales for mitigating risk, you will need to consider: your organisation and workforce capabilities, training provision, existing provisions, management capabilities, availability of equipment/tools and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) along with the following:-
- Consider how the risk will be dealt with – (1) eliminated, (2) postponed, (3) controlled, (4) managed, (5) monitored, (6) potential to reoccur.
- Consider obstacles that may prevent this – (1) environment, (2) technical, (3) management, (4) external factors, (5) 3rd parties, (6) funding/budget.
Below are some suggested options for the above ‘classification’ timescales for typical Handyperson tasks/jobs but remember, it is the Assessor’s responsibility to evaluate the relevant timescales for each risk identified.
Identifying Potential Hazards
Each designated task/job (fitting a Stair Rail, fixing wall tiles, laying flooring etc.) will need its own individual risk assessment, this information is then supplied to the Handyperson, before works commencement, to ensure the task/job is carried out at minimal risk to them and others.
The top Sixteen (16) Hazards likely to be encountered during Handyperson’s works are as follows:-
|Identified Hazard||Items to Consider|
||Wet/slippery/poorly maintained floors, poor storage, trailing cables, untidy workplace, work at heights/on Ladders etc.|
||Use of wood/metalwork/printing/catering/laundry/lifting/laser equipment, conflict with traffic and use of DSE|
||Handling sanitary ware/equipment/machinery, excessive stretching/reaching; handling awkward/multiple items.|
||Being struck by falling/flying particles/objects, trapping fingers/body parts in machinery, use of hand tools.|
||Work/maintenance on electrical systems, static shock, tampering, careless use of power tools, insufficient sockets|
||Open/exposed/fragile roofs. Damaged or missing floorboards. Working in loft spaces or on ladders/Scaffolding.|
||Machinery/Power tools/Transport causes difficulties in communicating and inhibits concentration/judgement.|
||working alone, special needs supervision, Children, those with breathing conditions, Identified as 2 to attend etc.|
||Moving vehicles and materials handling equipment. Exhaust fumes and hot surfaces|
||Use of chemicals/cleaning fluids, hot liquids and surfaces, exposure to infectious diseases/materials, burns/scalds|
||Poor storage/waste management, disconnected fire systems, arson/terrorist activities, hot building works, and smoking.|
||Presence of dust/fumes/noise. Falling/air-born/sharp objects. Risk of Fire/Explosion/Electric shock. Damage to others.|
||Reduced Oxygen levels, higher risk of fire and noxious fumes. Restriction in space and use of suitable tools|
||Naked flames, flammable gases, swarf, waste material and untidiness. Sparks, Conductive material and gases.|
||Asbestos Awareness Training. Type/Quantity and Condition of Asbestos. Expected levels of exposure and Friability.|
||Unidentified hazards, wrong materials or substances being used. Unnecessary work is being carried out.|
This list is not exhaustive and you may find that there are some particularly obscure risks, associated with some tasks or environments, which will need to be included.
Once you have identified the hazards for each task/job, these will need to be entered in the left-hand column of the risk assessment form/table.
Control the Risk
The Top row of the risk assessment form/table will have Five (5) standard questions that will need to be answered for each hazard identified, these questions are as follows:-
- Who/what may be harmed and how? – Give details of specific people (contractors, children, residents, careers, disabled occupants, etc.). Estimate the number of people that may be affected and in what way; also include significant property damage that may occur.
- What can be done now? – Provision of training, corporate and local standards complied with, existing codes of safe working practice, protective equipment, guarding, supervision, monitoring systems, specific assessments under health and safety regulations e.g. COSHH, DSE, noise, manual handling, fire etc.
- How Bad is the Risk? – This is where you enter your CEP risk score classification (low, medium, or high)
- What needs to be done? – What action should be taken or needs to be considered so that the risks identified are effectively controlled, reduced or eliminated?
- By When? – What is the target date for completion of the above ‘needs to be done’ actions?
So you will now have a risk assessment form/table with the following row and column headings:-
|Who/what may be harmed and how?||What can be done?||How bad is the risk?||What needs to be done?||By when?|
|First identified hazard|
|Second identified hazard|
|Third identified hazard|
The most effective control measure should always be introduced to ensure the maximum safety of operatives and individuals.
This chart details the levels of controls that may be applied to each hazard, every effort must be made to ‘eliminate’ risks where possible, if not then work down the hierarchy as required.
Record Your Findings
The next stage is to complete the ‘risk assessment form/table’ for each task/job, using section 1) above to assess low, medium or high risk and imputing preventions that can be carried out immediately.
You will then need to include measures that need to be done to control any risk remaining after your initial prevention interventions above and crucially, what timescale these further measures will need to be actioned by.
NOTE: You only need to complete the ‘hazards’ that are relevant to the task/job being assessed, the others can be deleted from the completed form. (Not all of the ‘top 24’ hazards previously mentioned will apply to every task/job and there may also be unique hazards, not previously mentioned, that may need to be included/substituted).
Remember that the intention of risk assessments is not to create paperwork for the sake of it; the main objective is to communicate the risk to those affected and to control the risk in practice.
It may therefore not always be appropriate or necessary to produce a ‘full’ risk assessment if the task to be carried out is minor and has minimal risks associated with it, a ‘short’ risk assessment may communicate the risks more understandably, faster and without compromise.
The following pages provide templates for the ‘short’ risk assessment and ‘full’ risk assessment, combine your chosen risk assessment format from the below templates.
When done, this will provide the risk assessment information that your business needs to record and communicate as part of its legal obligations under health & safety legislation.
Risk Assessment Proformas
Short Risk Assessment (Minor works, Minimal Risks)
|What are the hazards?||Who might be harmed and how?||What is being done to control the risks?||What further actions need to be taken to control the risks?||Who needs to act?||When is the action needed?||Date final action completed|
|Electrics||Operative||Cable Detector supplied.||Regular servicing of equipment|
|Machinery/tools||Operative||Use cordless tools.||Regular servicing of tools|
|Dust||Operative and others in the vicinity||Cordless vacuum cleaner and/or dustpan & brush||PPE – masks and Goggles to be readily accessible/available to all operatives.|
|Hazardous substances||Operative and others in the vicinity||Asbestos Awareness training||Update Asbestos Awareness Training annually.|
|Noise||Operative and others in the vicinity||Keep noise levels below 80 dB (A)||Refer to the Manufacturer’s documentation for noise levels|
|Hand tools||Operative||Store correctly & wear PPE as required||Regular upkeep & inspection of hand tools and toolboxes|
|Lone worker||Operative||Calendar updated||Operatives to ‘log off’ each day|
|Slips, trips and falls||Operative||Good Housekeeping||Store tools/materials safely.|
Full Risk Assessment
|What are the hazards?||Who/what may
be harmed and how
|What can be done now?||How bad is the risk? (low, medium, high)||What needs to be done?||When?|
|Slips, trips and falls||All operators, occupants, visitors and tradesmen nearby, may suffer sprains, bruising or fractures if they trip over objects, such as work debris, or slip-on spillages.||
||40.5 (3 x 3 x 4.5) LOW||
||Twice daily, ideally mid-day and at the end of each working day.
|Workplace transport||Operatives and others risk fatal or serious injuries from moving and manoeuvring vehicles, particularly when reversing.||
|Manual handling injuries||Operators risk injury, particularly to the back, from lifting and handling heavy or awkward objects.||
|Electric Shock||Operatives and others risk fatal or debilitating injuries if they receive a shock from faulty or damaged equipment.|
|Exposure to hazardous substances||Adhesives, grouts, and sealants may aggravate skin and irritate eyes.
Short-term respiratory irritation or shortness of breath may also be experienced.
|Hot works||Operatives and those in close vicinity, are at risk from burns and/or fire.|
|Working at low levels||Operatives may experience knee or back injuries.|
|Noise||Operatives and others in the immediate vicinity may suffer hearing damage from exposure to high levels of notice for extended periods.|
|Sharp edges||Operatives may experience cuts and abrasions to their hands, feet, and legs.|
|Lone worker||Operatives could suffer ill health or injury while working alone.|
|Dust||Short-term respiratory irritation or shortness of breath may be experienced by Operatives or those within close vicinity.
Some polymer floor tiles and Bitumen floor sealers may contain ACMs.
|Soldering and/or use of blow torches||Operatives and others in the close vicinity are at risk of burns, fire, and inhalation of potentially hazardous fumes.|
|Fire/explosion||Operatives and others in the vicinity could suffer from burns and smoke inhalation if sparks from grinders were to cause a fire.|
|Noise||Operatives and others in the immediate area may suffer hearing damage from exposure to high levels of noise for extended periods.|
|Hand tools||Operatives could suffer injuries when using hand tools.|
Review your Findings
Your final risk assessment process is to review the controls you have put in place and update your risk assessments to record any changes.
This is necessary for the following reasons:
- The controls or preventative measures you have put in place may no longer be effective
- Working practices may have changed (equipment or substances being used)
- Staff may have changed, operatives or management, who may not be as familiar with the task, as well trained or capable)
- The process may have changed (how you carry out the task, alternative materials used or impacted by other tasks)
- Previous accidents or incidents recorded when carrying out the task that has identified new risks.
Tasks/jobs that are more complex, time-consuming or dangerous will also require ‘method statements’, these are essential if the work involves demolition, dismantling or structural alterations.
Method statements are not a legal requirement but can be very helpful in communicating the more complex/involved actions required to reduce, eliminate, control or manage risks and to maintain the continuity of work from site to site.
Your risk assessments will also form a crucial part of your toolbox talks, construction phase plan and health & safety file on larger jobs, so it is always worth keeping good records of them.
Finally, your risk assessments can also be used to defend you in the event of any claim or investigation into the work that has been carried out and can also help mitigate Insurance costs on more dangerous tasks.
Minor Adaptations Without Delay was developed by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists as a practical guide for housing associations involved in fitting ‘minor adaptations’ for tenants, such as stair rails.
Part 1 gives examples of good practice, identifies characteristics of best practice and sets out to dispel some of the myths that result in failure to meet the needs of older and disabled people. It includes a number of case studies involving Home Improvement Agencies and Handyperson services.
Part 2 gives technical specifications, which will be of use to Handypersons and anyone else looking to fit or assess for a wide range of minor adaptations.
The guide was originally published in 2006 and includes technical specifications that Handypersons will find helpful.
Handyperson services arguably operate in a more commercial market than traditional HIA services, and other players such as commercial building contractors offer similar services at commercial rates.
From the commissioner’s point of view, less expensive operators (commercial operators who charge a commercial rate, therefore, require little or no subsidy) might seem an attractive option.
However, they are unlikely to provide a holistic service or link up well with other services and agencies. Most public sector commissioners would also need robust assurances that private sector handyperson services were affordable to people on low incomes, accessible to those in the greatest need and that the providers were trustworthy and reliable.
HIAs have an advantage over some other potential providers of services because they are already familiar with the rigours of quality assessment as part of service reviews, including the HIA Quality Mark.
The various components of these existing quality assurance schemes provide a framework for setting standards and ensuring the quality of services in future. This section picks out some of these elements.
Speak to our Regional Advisors
Our team of Regional Advisors are at the heart of what we do – providing advice and support to Local Authorities and Home Improvement Agencies. And because we’re funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities our everyday support is free of charge.
Whether it’s a question about the DFG legislation, you need advice on how to commission a HIA or anything in between – we’re here to help.