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March 16, 2020

EFESME attended the FEPYMA videoconference on COVID-19

On Monday, 16thMarch, EFESME attended the mono-thematic videoconference organized by its Spanish member, FEPYMA -Federación Española de Asociaciones de Pequeñas y Medianas Empresas de Ascensores, to talk about the COVID-19 emergency and the measures to be taken in our sector to deal with it. Mr José María Compagni, FEPYMA coordinator and its representative in EFESME, moderated the event to shed light on many very important issues, giving the participants, more than a hundred, the opportunity to present their opinions and their current difficulties. The meeting was articulated in four different sections, each of which has been crucial in understanding the situation of the lift sector in Spain in the light of the current serious situation, and how SMEs are reacting to the emergency. A panel was also dedicated to Italy, which was the first in Europe to resort to extraordinary measures to deal with the crisis. The topics discussed were:

1. The Italian situation

Mr Luca Incoronato, Policy Officer of EFESME and Director of ANACAM, explained the situation in Italy. The situation is more difficult in the north, especially in Lombardy, where companies have already put themselves in “August mode”, i.e.: holidays for the majority of workers, activities reduced to a minimum and to what is strictly necessary, interventions only with regard to really urgent situations. In the south-central area, things are a little better, but one always works alone. Throughout the country, telework is supported and encouraged as much as possible where possible: access to the offices to those who are not needed at that time is not allowed, and technicians go to the company only for spare parts, so as to avoid any contact with other colleagues. All work requiring more than one technician has been stopped for now. If the presence of more than one technician is inevitable, the distance of one meter is maintained. The lack of masks and protective equipment further complicates the situation: if there are no protective equipment, working in two or more is prohibited. The virus is very contagious: the approach chosen is to minimize activities now so as to see an improvement in the coming weeks: if one does not act now, the emergency will potentially last for months. Regarding preventive maintenance, ANACAM sent a letter to the Ministry written in common with the multinationals, stating that in some cases there is no possibility of doing everything that the law requires with regard to maintenance. Similarly, it is not possible to carry out all the periodic checks.  

2. Safety measures by activities

The measures taken so fare in Spain are generally divided by activity, so as to cover every sector of industry.
  • Installation: can be done as long as the safety distance is respected.
  • Preventive maintenance: it becomes difficult if one has to keep the distance meter, especially in very small rooms. According to some of those present, it shouldn’t be done: only the necessary services have to be carried out, preventive maintenance is not, and it is too risky to keep people at work. According to others, it is necessary to continue to do it, but at the minimum necessary, maybe organizing shifts.
    • Safety must always be the basic consideration, to make sure that technicians do not become a means of spreading the virus. Options: a) suspend preventive maintenance, b) maintain it, c) keep it only in certain buildings, if still open, and/or where it is extremely necessary for security reasons.
  • Failures in the system: always be careful to work alone, or to take the necessary security measures. Some repair services may be suspended, others not, depending on individual cases It appears from the meeting that all the positions are partially correct, but perhaps it is better to suspend everything for two weeks and then see what the situation is like. The best approach is to do as Italy does, taking little to no risk for two weeks, not even for the preventive maintenance. Now common sense says to stay at home and wait for the two weeks to pass, intervening as little as possible, especially for preventive maintenance, and use telework as much as possible
  • Rescuing trapped people: assistance must be guaranteed, but with due attention.
  • Periodic inspections: this is not an essential issue, to reduce risk situations it would be better to avoid them. One could ask the ministry to identify which inspections are considered necessary and which are not: priority should be given to the essential things, and, in any case, there would still be many inspections to be done. All those that are not necessary should be suspended for the moment, they will be done later (they should not be cancelled, only postponed). This does not apply to broken elevators and rescue actions, which must be carried out, while preventive maintenance should only be done in very specific cases. At the moment, there is no royal decree on this matter, one has to be careful: if it is impossible to enter a building to make a verification, this must be made clear to those in charge, to avoid complications and accusations of any kind against the SME in the future (as for the more legal aspects of contracts).
  • Logistical aspects: given the situation, it is necessary to suspend employment contracts and/or change the type of contract. Holidays do not last forever, how to continue to pay workers / employees left at home? It is a health and safety problem, but in the long run it becomes a big economic problem: government support is needed.
  • Other activities such as training courses: all suspended.

3. Needs for protective equipment

Spain is no different from the other European countries for what concerns the availability of PPE:
  • Masks and gels are unobtainable.
  • There is a need for the authorities to provide economic support to companies affected by the crisis. Even if workers are put on holiday, at some point the days end: what to do next?
  • Corporate communication: FEPYMA has at its disposal a decalogue of good practices and very simple and direct recommendations. Given the situation, using communication is a good idea, even internally within individual companies to inform employees and customers.

4. Conclusions

Finally, the presents discussed together what to do next:
  • One cannot close down businesses completely, one must continue with the minimum activities: in this regard, while guaranteeing the minimum services, one must be extremely careful to avoid possible contagion.
  • Contractual/legal aspects: attention must be paid to the consequences of all decisions taken at SME level, especially in the absence of precise information from the government. There is a risk of giving news individually that may lead to economic and legal consequences for the SME in the future: can a client complain about a contract already concluded if there are delays due to the COVID-19 situation? How should an SME behave? What did the government say? If there are no decrees and/or official news, it becomes a future risk for the SME.
  • Which ministries to contact for more information? Health and defence, probably economy/industry does not have the means to face the crisis;
  • It is desirable to remain as calm as possible: the lift sector must prepare for what will happen in the next fortnight, not just now.
  EFESME welcomes the good initiative organized by FEPYMA, and has already taken further steps to organise more meetings with its other members to monitor the situation regarding COVID-19 in the various European countries whose lift associations are part of EFESME, to face together this great emergency.

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