A day in the life .. with gas engineer Michael Murphy

As we reach a little over one year since the beginning of the first national lockdown, gas engineer Michael Murphy shares an insight into a day in his working life at Thirteen.

Michael Murphy


"Awesome! The weather is beginning to turn and I no longer have to wear my coat. It felt like a long miserable winter but coupled with the government’s road map and the sun warming my bones, I am starting to feel optimistic about this year and the feeling is mutual with many of our customers who I’ve spoken to recently.

"I kick start my day around 5am. My sleeping pattern has changed somewhat this past year - bed by 9pm and up before the birds! It does, however, give me time to have a long hot shower and enjoy the peace and quiet before a hectic day. At around 6am, my youngest who's seven gets up, he’s like a whirlwind. He’s what I call gifted - a term I use after he was diagnosed with autism at three years old. He speaks to us in a language that only we understand and sentences that are littered with meaningful words that everyone knows, to words he has made up just for us. He literally tears through the house making sure everyone is awake, lights on, dogs upstairs YouTube on the tv. You name it every electrical item is turned on. Good morning Murphy household!

"After starting the week servicing in Middlesbrough, I finish it in Hartlepool. With homes all over the North East and further afield, sometimes you can be working literally two minutes from your own home, to over an hour away in Morpeth - a wide variety of areas, homes, gas appliances and even accents.

"First call of the day (and the second and third) are unfortunately no accesses – where the customer is not in, is not expecting us or does not want us to come in for whatever reason. This is something the gas team are working on, in an effort to reduce wasting resources and to increase compliance. It's a tough battle, but we approach each appointment with a positive, friendly attitude and a focus on the customer experience. We work with the customers and try to accommodate them by offering out of hours appointments or specific times which fit in around their daily lives.

"Next, I finally get into my first property. I’ve got my PPE on, and after introducing myself at the door, checking if anyone in the home is showing symptoms of Covid I enter. The boiler is an Ideal Logic, which are relatively straight forward. In Hartlepool, as the water is hard water, it can sometimes cause issues, however this boiler was in pretty good shape and after a bit of a clean it was ready to be tested.

"The tests we carry out are super important from a safety perspective. We check the gas installation for any gas leaks by performing what we call a tightness test. We do not tolerate any gas leaks at Thirteen. The industry does allow gas leaks in properties and these depend on the size of your meter and if appliances are connected or not. We also check the exhaust gases coming from the boiler, in a similar way to a mechanic would check the exhaust gases of a car, we can tell by the readings we get if a boiler is burning gas correctly and therefore operating correctly and safely.

"Two services later, I’m feeling very happy I’ve been able to get access to these, it’s time to meet with a couple of the lads for lunch (socially distanced and sitting in our own vans or course). This offers a welcome break during the day and a bit of a distraction from what's going on in the world. We share a few light-hearted jokes, whilst eating a sausage roll (which is way too hot, and I know is going to make me suffer in about half an hour with heartburn). I learn that one of the lads is going up to Sunderland and the other is staying local. Both are very knowledgeable, and I know that if I get a problem or get stuck, I can ring them and between the three of us we can normally figure it out.

"On the afternoon I meet an elderly customer originally from Ireland, which sparked an immediate connection as I was born in Cork. The unwritten rule is don't talk about politics or football with customers, as it can lead to some arguments, but we did speak about why she left Ireland and moved to England. She tells me the troubles over there were the main reason. She was grateful she could leave and move here in Hartlepool, which she now considers her home. She offered me a cuppa and biscuits as soon as she realised I was Irish, however sadly due to Covid I had to decline. While I serviced the fire, she sat on a chair in the kitchen doorway asking questions about my childhood. It’s lovely when you get a customer like this who shows a genuine interest and it's also great to be able to engage in conversation with someone who doesn't get to see many people due to Covid.

"So, all in all a good day! I’ve met some awesome people and it was productive after the initial no accesses. Let's hope the sun keeps on shining, so this body of mine can start producing its own vitamin D!"