Customer profile: Midwest Safety Consultants

 

Dan Bergerson is a man on a mission.  He’s finding new ways to ramp up his safety consulting business after spending 32 years fully employed at Minnesota Power’s Boswell Energy Center. 

“I left Minnesota Power after 32 years, and I went right into my new business,” Dan explained.  “I didn’t give much thought to retiring in the traditional sense. 

“I love the consulting business,” he continued.  “I’m helping people on the front end of safety, and I think it’s a whole better way to spend my time.”

Dan’s business, Midwest Safety Consulting, was formed around his passion for safety, and his penchant for being a self-described “fall protection nerd.”  Since Dan’s business started up in 2008, he has traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada teaching courses on fall protection (protecting a worker from injuries and accidents related to falling).  Dan’s passion for safety also put him in contact with a network of other safety professionals, and he has used this network to help launch a business that seems natural for him.

“I started with what I knew best,” said Dan.  “As time went on, I added lines of services that diversified my offering to the same general client base.  I think of my business in four general product areas: fire prevention; protective services; site safety consulting; and training.”

What began as a way to keep busy after retirement has now blossomed into a business employing 24 people and one subcontractor with another eight part-time employees.

Everyone has a goal when they start a business, and Dan is realizing one of his: to create a business that has a legacy for his family.  His wife, Jean, assists with training, and he now employs his daughter as his office manager, while is son-in-law manages logistics for the business.

“We are growing to the point that I need to find a home for our operations,” Dan said.  “I’m comfortable operating the business aspect of the company from my home, but with the vehicles and other material and supplies we carry, I need to find someplace that can house all of that.  I have an idea, and I’m working hard to pull something together in the near future.”

While Dan’s love of consulting and teaching formed the basis of his business, he’s grown quickly.  One service is a high-angle rescue team that today employs six people part-time and one person full-time.  High angle rescue is considered to be terrain that has a slope angle of 60 degrees and higher.  Rescuers are totally dependent upon ropes used to keep them and the victims from falling and to gain access to and egress from the rescue location.  Examples of high-angle locations include pipe racks, ledges, catwalks, tops of vessels, cranes, and water towers.

Dan estimates that roughly 20,000 people working at Iron Range mines are required to participate in at least eight hours of Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) training each year, and Midwest Safety Consulting has been one of the primary training resources for much of that training.

Midwest Safety also provides construction or project site safety support for two mining operations in North Dakota’s Bakken oil operations, one operation in Duluth, and for Magnetation’s Plant Four site just north of Grand Rapids.  Managing safety at a construction site can be challenging; there are usually numerous contractors on the job at the same time, all with their own procedures.  It’s important for the project owner to have someone on the scene to enforce their own safety culture.  Dan’s team can be on the site during construction with the right resources at the right time.

One of the newest aspects of Dan’s business is fire protection services.  He has purchased fire trucks and fire response vehicles to provide incipient fire watch services, a service to industrial clients and others where there is welding and other activity adjacent to flammable materials.  One of his early clients is Enbridge, the energy delivery company that operates a gas pipeline through northern Minnesota.  This line of business will quickly become his most capital-intensive; the fire trucks and related gear will be hard assets that will need to be maintained and housed to keep them operationally available at all times.

“I have to say that my business wouldn’t be where it is today without the support and advice from Grand Rapids State Bank,” said Dan.  “Wayne Bruns, in particular, has been there as this business grew, and he took time to get to know me and my plans.  Every time I needed something, Grand Rapids State Bank has been there.  I worked with Steve Levar initially and now when the business has other needs—like credit cards—I can call on someone like Steph Warren.  If I need to adjust card limits or have other questions, I just call Steph.  Grand Rapids State Bank always provides personal service.”

Dan believes that his hands-on experience is a core competency for Midwest Safety Consulting.  “I have been a technician, an operator and a manager in an industrial setting,” Dan explained.  “I’ve been there and done that when it comes to safety, and I’m not preaching hollow words.  I’ve developed so much respect from the safety community in this region because of that, and it’s helped me develop a good network of other safety professionals I can call on. 

“I knew safety,” Dan added, “and I needed help making that into a business.  I’m proud of what we’ve built.”

   

Photos of fall-protection equipment at various construction sites; all clients of Midwest Safety Consulting.

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