By Ken Nielsen, PHCC-National Association President (2018-2019)
Sometimes it takes a village – or at least a strong contingent of passionate contractors – to create change. I’ve been attending the PHCC—National Association Legislative Conference for many years, along with a group from Massachusetts that’s so large that we usually have to break up into two groups to meet with all the representatives from our state! That always ensures that we can leverage the full potential of this great event, sharing our stories about important issues – like unfair utility competition and the need for infrastructure spending – with all our national lawmakers and staffs so that they have our industry’s issues top of mind when they’re making decisions that impact our businesses.
By voicing our concerns in person about unfair utility competition, we hopefully put a face – and a story – with this important issue. This year I spoke first-hand about how, years ago, a gas company in Massachusetts was giving away free equipment, with consumers having to find a contractor to install it. As a contractor, I can’t compete with free equipment, and most contractors aren’t interested in installing it. I am hoping my representatives heard my voice loud and clear about how these utilities have an unfair advantage by procuring resources subsidized by ratepayers.
Rolling Up Our Sleeves Locally
The national Legislative Conference has provided a fabulous framework for our PHCC of Massachusetts’ Day at the State Capital. Our chapter’s executive director, Wayne Thomas, did a great job developing this annual state event a few years ago and always has a small but mighty group of local members getting in front of our local representatives. Hopefully you are just as passionate about the laws in your state that affect your business; I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to advocate in person on important issues. As we’ve found in Massachusetts, often those in the state legislature have more time to meet with you (and they usually remember you from year to year!). That repetition is key.
I’m pleased to report that I’m seeing signs of infrastructure improvement spending right now in my hometown of Reading, Massachusetts, where they’re replacing both old cast iron gas pipes and the water main. Hopefully this trend will spread across America as Congress realizes that it’s not just our visible bridges and roadways that are in disrepair; our infrastructure below ground (namely water and gas) is in dire straits as well!
PHCC Government Relations Committee
Since I’ve become a national PHCC officer, I’ve been exposed to how much time and effort the PHCC Government Relations Committee spends developing and reviewing positions on key PHCC issues. We are very lucky to have such dedicated committee members – contractors just like you – who help set the direction of messages for PHCC staff to carry to Capitol Hill and to regulatory agencies. One issue I brought up to this Committee was the National Fire Protection Association Hot Work Certification, which resulted from fallen Boston firefighters’ families’ push for a “Hot Work” bill. (The firefighters died in a 2014 fire that was sparked by welders igniting a torch on a day with intense winds.)
As of July 2018, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts made hot work certification mandatory for all workers performing work involving flames or producing heat. Via the Education section of our PHCC of Massachusetts website (www.phccma.org), visitors can register for the Hot Work Safety Certificate Program. I predict this will be a nationwide initiative in the next few years, and I want PHCC to be the place to go to get this certification no matter where you reside.
Regulations on Refrigerants
As an HVAC contractor, I am also very passionate about the changing regulations on refrigerants. With some of the new refrigerants being mildly flammable, it’s more important than ever to ensure our technicians are trained on safe handling. I just attended a joint meeting in April with the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES); together we participated in a training session by refrigerant manufacturer Chemours. I’m pleased that both RSES and Chemours are joining us for CONNECT 2019, Oct. 2-4, in Indianapolis, Indiana. In fact, Chemours is sponsoring a site visit for attendees at their facility in Indy. I hope to see you there!