Perhaps nothing short of the looming technician shortage has helped bring the industry closer and encourage collaboration more than fighting the governmental overregulation that is impacting HVACR businesses nationwide, from the manufacturer all the way down to the installer.
Federal regulatory bodies — including the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), DOL’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and more — have updated or created new regulations governing efficiency, emissions, refrigerants, worker compensation, safety procedures, and more. And, unsurprisingly, many small business owners have been struggling to keep up.
In fact, keeping up with everything on one’s own would be next to impossible. Notices for new rules, proposed rules, supplemental information, and calls for comments are flooding my inbox daily; to try to keep up and ensure the information is available to you, I’ve been posting these notices verbatim on The NEWS’ Regulatory Update page (http://bit.ly/Regulatory-Update).
Meanwhile, I rely on people who are far smarter than I to help keep me in the loop and aware of the issues that are most important to our readers. These regulatory gurus may have familiar names: Jon Melchi from Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI); Bart James and Hilary Atkins from ACCA; Chuck White from Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC); and Guido Zucconi, Cade Clark, Karim Amrane, and Amy Shepherd from Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), to name a few. These men and women are working overtime to not only represent you (sometimes even in court), but to aggressively advocate for your best interests. They’re tireless, and they’re fierce.
Speaking of overtime, one of the issues these organizations have been attacking from all angles is the DOL’s final rule amending the overtime exemption, which takes effect Dec. 1 and raises the salary threshold for overtime eligibility from $23,660 per year to $47,476 per year. These industry organizations contend that the rule places a significant burden on small businesses (Melchi said it’s “going to impact a ton of people” and will “have more of an impact than anything we’ve seen from the DOL in some time”). And, their tireless objections didn’t go unnoticed. Due at least partially to the advocacy efforts of these organizations and others across the country, 21 states recently filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against the DOL seeking “a preliminary and permanent injunction against the DOL’s Final Rule,” according to an ACCA member alert.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A recent lawsuit in which ACCA was involved challenged changes to OSHA’s confined spaces rule that placed a significant monetary burden on contractors, who would often have to dispatch multiple technicians to a job instead of just one in order to comply with the rule.
“After the OSHA rule came out, a petition for review went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit,” James said, adding that the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) was the lead in the lawsuit. “It resulted in a settlement after months of negotiations.”
The settlement required OSHA to provide questions and answers to its regional offices as well as state plan programs, and to publish it on its webpage. “OSHA will also incorporate the Qs and As into its compliance directive for the rule,” James added.
These are just a couple examples of how industry organizations have successfully represented your best interests just in the last few weeks. Without these watchdogs in Washington, who are constantly vigilant and looking out for your companies’ best interests, these outcomes would likely have been much less favorable to you. So, if you’re not already a dues-paying, card-carrying member of at least one of these organizations, maybe it’s time to start supporting them like they’ve been advocating for and supporting you.
Publication date: 10/17/2016