It really is amazing how government, when creating laws and regulations, can inadvertently drive unintended consequences placing the very people and businesses they desire to protect at a competitive disadvantage. One example of such a situation relates to boiler law in the State of Ohio.

A boiler is a closed vessel in which water, or other liquid, is heated. The heated or vaporized fluid departs the boiler for various uses or heating applications such as power generation, cooking, sanitation and more. Current Ohio law, established in 1911, prior to the sinking of the Titanic, requires any high or low pressure boiler, which is larger than 30 horsepower, to have a licensed steam engineer or a certified boiler operator in attendance at all times. Each of these professions requires extensive apprenticeships and schooling, followed by testing. A gentleman, an expert in this industry, brought to my attention the fact that Ohio is one of only 8 states mandating a statewide boiler operator licensing requirement and the ONLY state setting the limit for licensed operators at 30 HP.

One horsepower in Ohio is defined as 12 square feet of heating surface, so 30 HP equates to 360 square feet. As you can imagine, in an attempt to avoid the costly labor requirement associated with boilers greater than 30 HP and to take advantage of the way the old law was written, businesses have turned to the “Ohio Special”. You guessed it; the “Ohio Special”, aptly named, is designed to be JUST under the 30 HP limit and avoids the need for an operator. It has become regular practice in Ohio to remove one large boiler, requiring an operator, and install several smaller Ohio Special steam boilers to produce the same amount of steam. However, because of the limited heating surface (must be under 360 square feet) these smaller boilers are by their nature less efficient and do not tend to have the same low emissions technology that is available on standard heating surface boilers.

To address this issue, I have introduced House Bill 12 (HB 12). The idea behind HB 12 is to bring balance and common sense to our boiler operator laws. Specifically, if a boiler meets the safety requirements set forth for boilers by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers or the National Fire Protection Agency then, according to the bill, a licensed operator is not required. To be clear, boilers are large industrial pieces of equipment, which need to be properly constructed, installed, maintained and inspected regularly for them to be safe to operate, but technology has also come a long way since 1911.

HB 12 recognizes the importance of safety, yet balances that with the adverse impact our laws can place on businesses. Currently HB 12 is in the House Commerce and Labor Committee hearing testimony and has a long way to go before it ever has the chance of reaching the governor for his signature. Let us continue to work together to restore common sense to the rules and regulations in Ohio.

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