In most industries, a worker getting sick or injured, while a hardship for the individual, does not pose a huge problem for the business.

But the service industry is different. If a sole proprietor service pro can't cover his or her normal route, how do those pools get clean? And what's going to stop the growth of algae as the chlorine levels slowly drop toward zero? Ultimately, what's to stop a customer from looking elsewhere?

This scenario is a lurking fear for many one-pole service pros across the country. For some, however the worry is lessened by sick route coverage provided by IPSSA, a plan that allows for other service pros to take over the route for a colleague that is temporarily out of commission.

How it works

Sick route coverage is for service professionals that run their entire operation single-handedly and who, through no fault of their own, are suddenly not able to cover the pools and spas they maintain. Typically, in this situation — when a pool pro is unable to take care of their route — pool owners are forced to start looking for a replacement service company as they cannot wait weeks or months for their pool guy to return. The program is structured to have all other chapter members collectively share and cover the sick member’s route. The program has a sick route chair for each chapter who coordinates coverage and works hard to ensure that the additional pools are shared out to other members with minimal stress to the group as a whole. The sick or injured service pro keeps from losing their business because other IPSSA members service the pools and pledge not to solicit the pool for their own business gain (if this happens, you are expelled from IPSSA).

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Sickness and Health issues

Oftentimes, IPSSA members use sick route coverage because of planned surgeries. One of the most common is knee surgery. Many service pros wear out their knees after years of servicing pools. “Planned surgeries, such as knee replacements, make up at least 50 percent of the instances in which sick route coverage is used,” says Sick Route Chairman and IPSSA Vice President Scott Peterson of Peterson Pools in California. Pool pros frequently avoid doing necessary surgeries like knee replacements because of the stress and worry of how to cover their business while they are having the surgery and recovering. IPSSA sick route coverage removes that stress, allowing pros to take the time they need while knowing their business won’t fall apart during the time they are away.

For example, not long ago Mark Hickey of All Seasons Pool Service in Lodi, California needed back surgery, and normally would have faced a quandary about what to do with his business while he was recovering. Instead, he says, “The members of the chapter all covered my weekly maintenance accounts until I returned. The professionalism of the work and coordination by the Sick Route chair was amazing. I had no anxiety about my business while I was out. My experience was great and I really appreciate the support of the members of my chapter.”

Similarly, Marc Cannon of Rescue H2O in Chandler, Arizona, currently the President of IPSSA, had to have knee surgery last year. “You never think it’s going to happen to you, and then it does,” he says of the realization he was going to be laid up. Still, Cannon was able to have the surgery without compromising his business due to route coverage.

Accidents happen

Knee, hip and back injuries are common in people who work with their hands, but there are always unexpected accidents as well. Automobile accidents, heart attacks and accidents that happen on the job, are also everyday occurrances.

“We all know that filter lids can blow up in our faces when we service pools,” says Peterson. "The pressure that can build up under a lid has been known to break arms and dislocate shoulders.”
Peterson recalls the time his chapter “adopted” a service professional who experienced this type of on-the-job accident even though he was not an IPSSA member. “We covered him for 6 months and truly saved his business.”

Ultimately, the success of the IPSSA Sick Route Coverage reflects positively on the swimming pool and spa industry as a whole. “If consumers find owning a pool and spa easy with reliable service companies readily available, our entire industry benefits,” says Joe Lukacik, Region 7 Director for IPSSA in San Diego, California.

Lukacik himself was a beneficiary of Sick Route coverage when he ended up in a coma after what was supposed to be a routine, scheduled heart operation. Lukacik spent 60 days in the hospital. “My business would not have survived without the help from my IPSSA chapter sick route program. I tried insisting that the guys take financial compensation for what they did for me, but no one would accept. I still get choked up about what they did for me.”

Coming together to provide sick route coverage clearly produces benefits beyond the practical matter of servicing pools, adds Brad Jones of AAA Pool & Spa, Torrence, Calif. “After I had my knee surgery, it was heartwarming whenever the guys in the chapter would call to find out how I was getting along,” he says. “It is really a very impressive thing when you can rely on the same guys whose pools you have taken care of when they were out.”

For more information about sick route coverage or IPSSA, contact IPSSA Executive Director Amy Nijjar at 888.360.9505, ext. 4, or at anijjar@ipssa.com.