Dave Squires is no stranger to the challenges of running a plumbing contracting business. He and his brother Daniel Squires share equal ownership in Port Huron, Michigan-based Vincent’s Plumbing & Heating and Online-Access, an online marketing firm exclusively for contracting companies. So when the COVID-19 pandemic launched an entire new set of headaches for companies trying to comply with OSHA guidelines, Dave Squires decided to create a painkiller. 

CertiClear is an automated service designed to simplify employee health screenings, facilitate COVID-19 compliance and reduce potential liability. In the U.S., 45 states now require or recommend employee health screening for businesses. The system coordinates, organizes and securely stores employee daily health screening records. It’s also free of privacy risks and designed to be HIPAA and ADA compliant.

“Initially, we were doing it manually, and it was a total cluster,” Dave Squires says. “We are in Michigan, and the problem was asking everybody the questions and having them answer every day. It was taking at least a minute to a minute-and-a-half, if you could get everybody on the phone at the right time. And you’re supposed to be doing this before releasing jobs. We thought of doing our daily screening with a questionnaire log our employees would fill out daily. However, there’s absolutely no privacy that way. Even with our dispatcher asking the questions, that’s one more person in the loop that doesn’t need to be.

“So we decided to write something for our own company,” he continues. “As we did, we were seeing interest from other companies and realized this was something everybody needed. Right now, very few businesses are doing this and it’s mandated in almost half the states. If it’s mandated and you ignore it and an employee gets COVID-19 and decides to sue, you really don’t have a leg to stand on if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Michigan is one of the states that has mandated wellness checks for employees. Dave Squires decided automation was key in simplifying this process.

“The first thing we do with a business is look at how to deal with the exclusions, not the norm, because the norm becomes white noise if you get an email every time somebody passes the screening. So our program notifies HR when there is a situation with a decision to be made. We create the ability to log how the decision is handled, what’s been told, everything like that, so that we have an audit trail, which is the best protection you can have. We don’t tell people how they need to handle COVID-19 situations, we build the framework so they can, staying within HIPAA compliance and ADA compliance.”


How it works

CertiClear currently has more than 100 contractors using the system. 

“What’s nice is it uses the employee’s cell phone,” Dave Squires notes. “Employees get a reminder SMS text message to answer the mandated screening questions 15 minutes before their normally scheduled start time. They just click the unique link sent with the text message. If they don’t respond, 15 minutes later, they will receive another message. They’re going to get three messages 15 minutes apart until they fill it out. If they answer all questions satisfactorily, they continue on. If they answer a question that may raise a health concern, they’re told to stop what they are doing, not to go into the office, and to contact HR.”

HR is also notified as well as the supervisor so they can work it out, Dave Squires notes. 

“If someone says ‘I have a runny nose,’ well that could be allergies,” he says. “If that’s the case, you document the employee said it feels like normal allergies. Then you can make the decision what you want to do. For example, if this is normal allergies, I’m not going to quarantine you, unless something changes.”  

All of the documentation for each employee is stored in the system so there is a complete audit trail. And, because different states have different requirements, the platform can be customized to each company’s location. 

“In some places, you’re required to take a temperature, and in some, you’re not,” Dave Squires explains. “Some places you just have to ask, ‘Do you have any symptoms?’ In our demo on the website, it asks the question: ‘Do you have a temperature higher than 100.4° F?’ If you want to ask that question, you can, or you can delete it and make the employee put their actual temperature in. We’re flexible on how companies want to do it — it just depends on their location.”

And though, the platform requires employees to input their own temperatures, Dave Squires doesn’t think it presents a liability. 

“If you have a dishonest employee, you have bigger problems than their health check,” he says. “You can’t fire the employee if he fails a screening, you can make him get tested, which isn’t a great incentive for the employee to lie. If you suspect someone failed deliberately because they want a two-week vacation, make them do other things, such as clean the truck and send pictures. 

“Nobody wants to go into work sick,” he adds. “The other thing is, we’re trusting them to answer the questions anyways, so the temperature is just one part of it. The temperature is not that much of a difference, because a lot of the symptoms come before the temperature anyways.”


Contractors react

Farmington Hills, Michigan-based Thornton and Grooms was one of the plumbing and HVAC companies who tested CertiClear. Company President Matt Bergstrom says the product has been “super easy” to use.

“It saves our DSRs and managers the monotony of having to ask the litany of questions each day,” he explains. “The great thing about this is we just get alerted to an exception. And it keeps the rest of the information tracked in the background. I love that it is text based, so no one has to remember or be reminded to log in and fill it out. We get a text each morning, it asks six to eight yes or no questions, and it takes less than 20 seconds to do each day.”
Bergstrom says the system is 10 times better than the Excel spreadsheet the company was previously using. 

“We haven’t had much feedback from our team, which tells me it’s easy to use and not intrusive to them,” he notes. “The only real explanation the team needs is what the definition of ‘exposure or close contact’ with someone who may have COVID-19 means. For this, I suggest adding the CDC definitions for these terms to eliminate headaches and false exposures when they do happen.”

Bergstrom also notes the company will most likely continue to use CertiClear even if Michigan eliminates mandates on employee health screening — at least for a little while.

“It helps keep us in the know on employee health and expected time off, as well as any workplace injuries that may have taken place the prior day.” 

Appleton Campbell Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning & Electrical in Warrenton, Virginia, began using CertiClear to be proactive right before the mandate began in Virginia, according to the company’s Marketing Director Heather Appleton. 

“First, it was tested with the office personnel, and then all field personnel were included for a total of more than 80 employees,” she says. “It is easy to set up and use, and is affordable. We have been fortunate that our office is in a county with relatively low cases of COVID-19 and less than 10 deaths; however, we also work in surrounding counties that have not fared as well. Our top priority is the health and safety of our employees as well as our customers.”

Monica Craig, marketing and operations/HR for Mt. Vernon, Washington-based CPI Plumbing & Heating says her company has been using CertiClear for its 29 employees for the past two months. 

“Service Roundtable recommended the system, so we felt confident in using it — not to mention, the health and safety of our team members and customers is our top priority and always has been,” she says. “Our team likes the ease of use, and were thankful for adding the extra procedure to ensure their safety during these times.”