Safety is Paramount

Paramount Structures Inc.
Written by Claire Suttles

Safety is truly paramount at Paramount Structures Inc. (PSI). Chairman and President Jason Burroughs was inspired to launch the company after an explosion ripped through BP’s Texas City facilities in 2005, killing 15 people, injuring 180 onsite workers, and causing more than $1.5 billion in financial losses. “There really wasn’t an existing solution in Canada,” Mr. Burroughs recalls…
He got down to work and quickly developed a prototype for a blast resistant module that would fully protect people on the job. “We marketed it to some companies here in Canada and I could see immediate traction. They found my prototype intriguing and were excited about the potential for these blast structures.”

Nine years later, PSI’s groundbreaking Blast Resistant Modules (BRMs) are protecting oil and gas and petrochemical workers throughout Alberta. “They can literally withstand massive explosions, anything up to an 8 PSI blast, in the event of a catastrophe on site,” Mr. Burroughs explains. The company’s BRMs also protect against more common workplace hazards, such as fire and toxic gas releases. The airtight structures are made of steel and feature top of the line safety components including fire and gas detection, blast dampers, superior HVAC systems, and blast resistant doors and windows. “Your structure is only as strong as your weakest component,” Mr. Burroughs points out. “We have taken a lot of time and searched worldwide to find the best blast door solutions, the best blast window solutions, and the best blast dampers, which are critical for any explosion over 5 PSI.”

The company’s BRMs are skid mounted so they can be dropped virtually anywhere – no foundation required. In addition, PSI has pioneered a way to attach multiple units together to create entire blast resistant complexes. “When this industry emerged, a lot of people were building standalone units that were basically modified sea cans,” Mr. Burroughs remembers. In contrast, one of PSI’s latest projects attached six 12×60 modular units together to build a single, 72×60 complex. “That creates a much more user-friendly environment than having a bunch of individual lunch rooms or offices in separate little containers.”

The company also goes the extra mile to create a pleasant environment filled with natural light and aesthetic finishings. As a result, PSI’s structures improve worker wellbeing as well as providing the highest level of protection. “[It has] to do with stress reduction and worker satisfaction,” explains CEO / CFO Jim Pendergast. The industry standard BRM tends to be windowless, dark, and utilitarian, so PSI’s solutions stand out, and can prevent workers from jumping ship. “It helps with worker retention, especially in areas like this, where people cross the street for wage increases of twenty-five cents an hour.”

Workers also appreciate the convenience of staying onsite, while companies appreciate the cost savings. Without BRMs, onsite employees must be constantly transported in and out of blast zones for lunch breaks, washroom visits, and to approve permits and receive test lab results. This means that valuable, paid time is being squandered throughout the day during these constant back-and-forth trips. Companies also save money when buying a PSI structure because, unlike the five to ten year lifespan of a stick built trailer, PSI’s steel structures are built to last 30 to 40 years, making the upfront investment well worthwhile.

PSI’s modular structures are also environmentally friendly. There is minimal waste during the construction process, and what little waste exists can almost all be recycled. Another benefit of modular construction is that the units can be built very quickly to meet tight deadlines.

PSI also stands out for its hands-on approach and individualized solutions. “Typically in this industry, people that supply blast resistant structures are just responding to requests from the oil and gas company or the petrochemical company,” Mr. Pendergast says. “In other words, they just deliver what they have in inventory. I think what separates us from everybody else is that we want to work with our customers to provide a customized solution to the problem. We want to go in there and help determine what they actually need.”

The team goes onsite and analyzes the blast site to determine the best location for blast structures and to develop the most cost effective solution. This personalized product can vary quite a bit from the standard and ensures that customers are not paying for features they do not need. “Sometimes what they think they need is not what they actually need,” Mr. Pendergast explains. “They may not need an 8 PSI structure; they might only need a 5 PSI, or a 2 PSI structure. It is really a customized solution. No one is really doing that today, so that is how we separate ourselves from everybody else.”

Working closely with customers has been one of PSI’s secrets to success. “I think that to make that transition from an idea to a successful product, one of the key things you have to do is work with the customers,” says Mr. Burroughs. Otherwise, customers may not understand the product or its value to them. “It’s a similar story for any new product. People have to understand why it is something that would be helpful to them in their business. Survivability is paramount; the cost of an employee’s life is non-negotiable.”

PSI boasts facilities in Calgary and Edmonton and manufactures all of its products in Canada. Mr. Burroughs is a status member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, making the company a majority owned Aboriginal Business established within the traditional territories of the Indigenous people of Canada. “We pride ourselves on being an Aboriginal business,” he says. The team is committed to building long lasting, meaningful relationships with First Nations communities and respecting the diversity of the areas in which they operate. PSI makes investment opportunities available to aboriginal investors and works in partnership with indigenous bands to train and educate First Nations youth for employment in the oil and gas industry. “It is very important for us to work with, train, and potentially employ the indigenous peoples of Canada,” Mr. Burroughs says. “That is an important value of PSI.”

The team also sees an opportunity to supply a superior housing option to First Nation communities that is extremely energy efficient. The modular technology that PSI pioneered to create durable, long lasting, fire resistant, and mould resistant structures for industry also can be used to make a flexible, cost effective, and safe housing solution, particularly for people living in rural and remote areas.

PSI has already accomplished its fair share of industry firsts, but the team is eager to continue forging ahead. Most recently, the company has turned its attention to advancements in blast resistant design which they believe could revolutionize blast structure solutions. The team is looking at engineered polymer solutions that would lighten the weight of a BRM, but be stronger than steel. “We are definitely making some advancements,” Mr. Burroughs says of the company’s product with these advancements of materials and design. PSI is also exploring military applications for its BRMs.

One of PSI’s major initiatives this year is to drive regulation to create industry standards. “Currently there is no real legislation and regulation for these units,” Mr. Pendergast reports. “We believe there should be. We believe that the clients should have a level of confidence in what they are getting and we are going to drive that because no one else is.” From industry regulation to engineered designs, PSI has been a market leader since it broke onto the scene in 2006. Today, the team is eager to continue breaking ground in this relatively new, and much needed industry.



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