Gas workers adjust to pandemic while keeping customers front and center

Connecting a natural gas line to their new home was a critical step in being able to move in, yet the pandemic had Andy Millers of Readington, New Jersey, worried that the move might not happen. When PSE&G delivered, he was so satisfied that he emailed his thanks.

“The entire process was handled seamlessly by everyone I dealt with and made it easier for my family to move in quicker to our new home,” Millers wrote.

It’s a difficult balance for PSE&G Gas Operations workers, who already have tough jobs such as responding to gas leaks and digging up streets to upgrade pipes, to add new safety protocols to continue working during the pandemic. Yet, they’re meeting the challenge without sacrificing quality service to customers.

The workers now wear extra personal protection equipment, including face masks, respirators and Tyvek suits when entering customer homes. They receive extra training, practice physical distancing and perform routine cleaning, among other preventive measures. 

“It’s tough working with the mask just because it gets very dirty every day, and your glasses steam up,” Plainfield Gas Street Leader Jeff DiGregorio said. DiGregorio has worked at PSE&G for 15 years, currently upgrading pipes as part of PSE&G’s Gas System Modernization Program.

Physical distancing, yet working closely

Like many of his colleagues, what keeps DiGregorio going is his love for and pride in his job. “When I’m working, I treat everything like it’s my own,” he said. “That way, when we come back to do final touches, I know I’ll see happy faces.”

DiGregorio, who has three young children, said he’s as concerned as other parents about the coronavirus, yet he’s satisfied that PSE&G has taken significant precautions to help protect him, other employees and customers – such as securing machinery overnight and having employees travel in vehicles alone instead of in teams.

PSE&G Street Leader Justin Strauss said he has 14-year-old twin daughters, one of whom is disabled. “I worry about bringing it home to her,” Strauss said, noting he’s made adjustments at work and at home. “We do what we have to do to support and protect our families and others.”

Strauss, who also is a union representative, said he’s impressed by how closely the unions and PSE&G management have worked together in response to the pandemic.

“The bottom line is that safety is our number one priority and customer satisfaction is a core commitment for us,” Plainfield Gas District Manager James Mastroti said. “A key element of customer satisfaction right now is empathy – putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes.”

Meeting high standards in safety and customer satisfaction

Since March 16, gas workers have entered over 17,500 homes, completed nearly 7,600 gas emergencies, 10,200 no-heat calls, 900 street-leak repairs, some 500 new-service installations and other critical gas work to keep customers safe and satisfied.

The majority of gas employees, more than 1,550, have been fit tested to ensure respirators fit properly. When working inside, PSE&G employees wear a respirator, protective gloves and other basic personal protective equipment, and there have been 127 cases where upgraded personal protective equipment was worn due to additional COVID-19 precautions.

“I’m really proud of the work that our professionals are doing during this difficult time,” said Joe Forline, PSE&G vice president for Gas Operations. “We are providing critical natural gas and essential services to our customers, safely and efficiently, when they need us the most.”

Appliance Service Technician Will Neal said when he goes into homes, customers are appreciative that they’ve received advanced calls covering safety issues. Still, he said, many customers are shocked when they see him appear in full gear.

“The face respirator is still a shock,” Neal said. “When we talk to customers, it’s muffled. But when I explain our safety protocols, they are a little more relieved and feel protected themselves.”

Thomas Cronin, 92, a Hillsborough, New Jersey resident who recently received an emergency heater repair, said he was grateful that a PSE&G supervisor and technician both raised the issue of coronavirus before arrival.

“I’m an old geezer who’s had a good life. I’m very conscious of COVID-19. I don’t want to pass it on, inadvertently, to some young guy who has his whole life in front of him,” said Cronin, who served in the U.S. Navy and retired from the U.S. Postal Service. “I can always trust PSE&G to provide good service.”

For more information about PSE&G efforts during the pandemic, visit http://www.pseg.com/covid19.

Lauren Ugorji, Lead Writer - PSE&G

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