Site Visit: Small Mechanical Services Company in Council Bluffs, Iowa
By Bruce E. Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel
Staff from the Office of Advocacy visited Rasmussen Mechanical Services in Council Bluffs, Iowa, following Advocacy’s recent Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable in that city. Advocacy was hosted by Brian Rasmussen, the grandson of Rasmussen founders Erv and Agnes Rasmussen, who started the company in 1970 with only one truck. Originally called Rasmussen Heating & Air Conditioning, the firm has expanded to provide industrial boiler and burner repair, HVAC, industrial air, mechanical construction, and other services to commercial, industrial, and institutional clients throughout the central United States.
Brian Rasmussen obviously has a passion for the business – and for his employees. As part of his meeting with Advocacy, Brian invited in several staff members to talk about their operations. These included his safety director, operations and site location managers, and chief financial officer.
Asked about regulatory issues that burden the business, the staff mentioned several occupational safety and health, transportation, and tax issues that impact them. Specifically, they noted that OSHA’s injury and illness reporting rule can be confusing, such as when using skin glue on a cut is a reportable injury, but using a band aid is not. They also said OSHA’s new Silica rule – and particularly its Table 1 list of silica-safe work practices – is overly complex and has driven up the price of saws and tools. They also cited the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours of Service of drivers rule, which they believe needs to be more flexible so they can get their customers back on line and running – especially in an emergency. Finally, they noted that the tax code was overly complex, especially for a small, family-owned business like Rasmussen.
Asked about his number one priority, however, Brian didn’t hesitate – safety! He noted that a shortage of skilled technical workers was a real challenge for the company. He said they utilize union apprenticeship programs to find workers. However, the full training apprenticeship program for these skilled technicians can take up to five years, so they invest a lot in their people and try hard to retain them. They also conduct in-house training on safety and other issues.
Rasmussen now has around 200 employees and is in the process of expanding into new offices and facilities in an adjoining property. It was great for Advocacy to see a company that produces industrial products and services and has a real passion for their business.
Advocacy was in Iowa for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables July 17-19.
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Bruce Lundegren is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy whose portfolio includes safety, transportation, and security. Lundegren can be reached at email@example.com.