I am making preparation to start back later in July (having not worked since 20th March). During lockdown I have received a mixed response from customers – some ringing up very keen to have their pianos tuned and others wishing to cancel, or postpone prearranged appointments. Initially I will be catching up on the backlog of customers who have expressed an interest in getting their pianos tuned. This is all provided the Covid stats continue to show an improved picture. The problem is still out there and there are considerable hygiene issues to give thought to.
Because of this I regret I will not be providing a full service for some time yet and will not be taking on new customers for the foreseeable future. For those I do visit, my new working regime will be limited to the following:
- Only straightforward tuning jobs – no repair work.
- Only customers within a close radius of Harrogate.
- Only jobs where all in the household are well, not self-isolating, or shielding.
- Only jobs where socially distanced entry and access to the piano can be achieved and the piano is in a well ventilated unconfined space and the job does not require customer contact.
- Payment is made by bank transfer.
I plan initially to only do one or two tunings per day and close to Harrogate so I can return home and clean up properly between visits.
There are quite a number of hygiene concerns which have been highlighted by the Pianoforte Tuners’ Association and others. I reproduce some of their general guidance below. I will try to adhere to these procedures and have ordered supplies of wipes, sanitiser, gloves, masks etc. to this end:
Work in people’s homes can continue under the following conditions:
- The tradesperson is well AND
- All Public Health advice including the social distancing rule is adhered to at all times AND
- The household where the work is taking place is not self-isolating
Tuners should be respectful of the current situation and contact customers first to ensure it is OK. Social distancing is imperative and might be a challenge particularly as children are at home.
If the customer doesn’t want their piano tuned because of the current situation, be understanding and accept their position.
Each case is unique and only you with your customer can decide if you should tune or not.
Wear disposable latex gloves whilst in their house and make sure you thoroughly clean keys etc. after you have finished; demonstrating the fact that you are taking the situation seriously and taking precautions.
You must make a risk assessment of your work and identify sensible measures to control the risks associated with COVID-19. This is nothing complicated and does not have to be written down (unless you employ more than 5 people). Just think about your work and possible risks, for example how can I maintain social distancing?
Basic points to note:
- You should not work in a household which is self-isolating.
- You should only work if you are fit and not clinically vulnerable
- When working in a household where somebody is clinically vulnerable but has not been asked to shield, for example someone over 70, make prior arrangements.
- Avoid face to face contact, step back when the customer answers the door and let them move away before you enter etc. Be particularly strict about hand washing and hygiene especially after you have finished your work – make sure you clean the keyboard.
- Maintain social distance as far as possible. Where not possible you can still work but take mitigating actions to reduce physical contact and protect your eyes, mouth and nose if someone is coughing/sneezing and of course use a tissue if you do! And dispose of it sensibly.
- Discuss with your client in advance how you can carry out the work safely. For example leave doors open so you don’t have to touch door handles.
- Carry and use hand sanitiser (if soap and water is not available). Make sure you have some with you.
- Clean the piano keyboard before and after you finish your work. Remember to also clean your tools before you place them back in your case.
- Accept bank transfer or contactless as payment rather than cash or cheque
At the moment, there is no legal requirement and government is not recommending using PPE face covering unless you would do so normally.
The virus can survive for several days on certain surfaces. Touching the piano keyboard is a daily activity for piano tuners. Some of the advice on key cleaning is conflicting. Makers have had to refer to their keyboard manufacturers to establish best practice. The most widely accepted recommendation for plastic (nitrocellulose) key coverings is diluted alcohol-based disinfectant wipes or sprays – avoiding bleach, or citrus based products. Others suggest solutions with quaternary ammonium chloride. Standard isopropyl alcohol wipes and sprays are convenient and safe for most plastics and evaporate quickly. Use products with 60 – 70% alcohol and if using a spray, apply using a disposable cloth which should be binned after use. Follow up with a dry cloth and wash hands for 30 seconds before and after the process (but see * below).
The above solutions however would not be suitable for ivory, or pre 1950s plastics. Some older ebony key-sets were finished in stain and lacquer which may be dissolved by a harsh cleaner. A soapy water mix may be the best substance here. Soap is effective and is without the risk of long-term damage, but should be applied very sparingly with only a slightly moistened cloth. Testing an unobtrusive area first would be wise.
Any liquid introduced to the keyboard can cause problems; disturbing glue joints and loosening the key coverings. Old, thin ivories are porous and are particularly susceptible. Always use discretion.
Make sure that you clean all the surfaces you have touched along with your tools and then dry them with a dry cloth. Do not leave them wet. Make sure you dispose of the used wipes, maybe have a small polythene bag you can put them in to take away with you and dispose of at the end of the day in your household waste.
There is no easy way to clean a keyboard, and a 100% virus-free result cannot be guaranteed.
Customers should be advised to wash their hands before and after they play the piano and to keep the lid closed when not in use.
*Some piano makers and shops do not recommend any kind of disinfecting agents on piano keys, stating: Piano key-tops are made from various types of materials, including wood, plastic, ivory, wood composites, phenol resins, acrylic, and manufacturer’s proprietary compounds. Many of these materials can be damaged or permanently discoloured by ingredients such as alcohol, chlorine, ethanol, peroxide, and salts that are commonly found in disinfectants.
Cleaning work should only be undertaken after discussion with the customer. Basically it all comes down to common sense. The main thing is to talk to the customer in advance and be sensible.
As you can see from the above diatribe, cleaning piano keys is a bit of a minefield and even not advisable. I propose a modest cleanup with an alcohol wipe, but cannot guarantee a Covid-free result. There are other issues – anything from toilets, to where I should hang my coat; but hopefully no problems are insurmountable.
I will post a further update when anything changes.