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Meet Lead Inspector, Shane Ford

hercules slr employee spotlight shane ford

Get to Know: Shane Ford, Lead Inspector at Hercules SLR in Brampton, Ontario 

Shane Ford, Lead Inspector, @the_inspector_guy, the guy who keeps you safe…You probably know Shane Ford, our Lead Inspector in Brampton, Ontario by at least one of these names. And you don’t, you should. We sit down with Lead Inspector Shane Ford in Brampton, Ontario, to find out why he made the switch to rigging from the telecommunication industry (yep, really!), what he loves about his role at Hercules SLR and the biggest mistakes he finds out in the field.

Tell us about your educational background:

Originally, I worked in telecommunications. I made the transition to rigging after I met someone who worked in the field and learnt a bit about it.

Now, I’ve been in the industry just over 13 years—I started on the floor in shipping & receiving, and now I’m the Lead Inspector at our branch in Brampton, Ontario.

Tell us a about your role at Hercules SLR—What does a typical day look like for you?

My day starts at 8AM, usually on the warehouse on the floor where I inspect chain slings, add chain to chain blocks and whatever other rigging hardware needs to be looked at. Then, on an interesting day, I might get an emergency call for a project, like a windmill inspection. (Editor’s note: did you know there are approximately 3,800 blade failures each year?) The windmill is about a 2 1/2 hour-drive away, and a 365-stair climb when I get there.

Once I’m through inspecting the windmill, that’s a day. Often when you’re working on huge structures, like a crane, they’ll have an elevator on the ladder—Not on windmills! There are rest-points, but in all honesty I’m usually so eager to get to work, I climb the entire structure in one-go.

windmill inspection by shane ford at hercules slr
Windmill inspected by Shane Ford.

In fact, a lot of my days look quite different. For example, tomorrow I’m off working for the City of Toronto, today I’m working in the shop, and then I’m heading to a business that sells industrial tarps. These tarps aren’t actually meant to cover things like you might think, but are used for specialty fall protection and lifting & hoisting applications to move things on-site.

Can you tell us about your work experience before joining Hercules SLR?

Like I mentioned earlier, I originally worked in the telecommunication industry. I worked in a hobby-shop and then in management. I managed different cell phone branches in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and was responsible for sales, helping with technical issues and customer issues. This experience definitely helped me deal with customers when I’m in the field doing inspections.

Why did you decide to work for Hercules SLR?

Really, I just wanted a career change and was looking for something that offered a stable, steady income, was hands-on and also ‘pushed the envelope’.

I’m definitely more mechanically-inclined, and wanted to pursue a field that challenged that aspect of myself.

As an inspector at Hercules SLR, I get to work with equipment like air hoists & manual hoists that I didn’t have a chance to work on before, which has pushed my interests a lot.

Where have you traveled during your time at Hercules SLR, and where did you enjoy traveling to most?

I’ve got to travel to so many cool places, a lot of them in my own backyard! Can I say more than one? (laughs)

One of the places I’ve enjoyed the most has got to be Shelburne, Ontario to work on wind turbines (a large vaned wheel which rotates with the wind to generate electricity) in the facility there. They don’t let many people up and inside them, so it feels like a big privilege—And the view is amazing!

Sometimes, I get to observe the people at work and what they do when I’m out on a job. Another cool place I’ve traveled for work is the GM plant in Oshawa where I got watch them manufacture cars from start to finish.

General Dynamics is another cool place! To work there, you need security clearance, a variety of official background checks and a guard to accompany you—It’s intense but very cool. There, I had the chance to watch them manufacture amoured personnel carriers for the army from start to finish. It’s pretty cool to see a piece of sheet metal turn into an entire vehicle right before your eyes!

However, I think the coolest project I actually worked on are the Zip-lines at Niagara Falls. I was one of three Hercules SLR Inspectors who prepped the wire rope with hooks and sockets on each end, tested it in-house, and installed it with specialty 1/2 lock-strand—It went ‘live’ in 2015, and is always cool to see people using.

niagara falls ziplines installed by hercules slr
Zip-lines at Niagara Falls, installed by Shane Ford and a team of Hercules SLR Inspection Technicians.
Is there anywhere that you would like to travel to in the future with Hercules SLR?

Honestly, I couldn’t imagine anything more fun or crazy. I get to go so many cool places, that I didn’t even know rigging was used before I started working with Hercules SLR. A really good example of this is the Bank of Canada, who uses wire rope. A lot of people might not think of rigging equipment in a bank, but it’s definitely there. At the Bank. an armed guard stands by a gated door while I head in and inspect the wire rope they use. It’s neat to get a behind-the-scenes look at places I normally wouldn’t!

What’s something you’re most proud to have accomplished in your career at Hercules SLR?

I’m most proud of what I’ve accomplished and how far I’ve been able to advance in my career at Hercules SLR in 2 1/2 years. I came into this trade from a completely different industry, and now I’m certified by organizational bodies like LEEA, Columbus McKinnon, Crosby, Samson Rope and more and always have new learning opportunities.

Another thing I’m proud to have accomplished in the securing, lifting and rigging industry personally, is the trust I get on a company-level and from customers’ onsite. I work out of our Brampton branch, and help out Hamilton and Brampton. I actually live almost exactly between these branches, so I’m able to travel between both of them to provide service, and also travel to our branch in Sarnia for inspections which gives me a good spread of Ontario.

Another thing that makes me happy is knowing that I help keep people safe. I like going to help, solve people’s problems and making sure ***that I’m keeping others’ safe. I can’t help but think of my own family when I’m on a site, and how everyone around me has a family, too—I want to go home to my family, and I want them to go home to theirs, too. 

What do you enjoy most about the securing, lifting and rigging industry? 

Honestly, I enjoy the challenges the most. I love going to help & solve mechanical challenges for people. We might get a call that a piece of machinery is stuck, and it’s delaying an entire project. You have to diagnose and think about it on-the-spot, and often the work we’re doing can prevent something disastrous from happening, and can actually save lives.

For example, on one call we had an inspector notice a 200-lb hoist about 50-feet in the air that was having operational issues. We had to take the hoist out of service and into our shop. Yes, it’s 200-pounds, but an object falling that high can deflect and cause a lot more damage than you might think. The more experience you have, the more it helps you do this type of job.

“Don’t put on an act when the inspector’s around, and actually make it habit to perform visual inspections.”

dangerous modified rigging equipment
Modified rigging equipment that came across Shane Ford’s desk—This would be very dangerous if used in the field.
What’s something clients/customers often don’t know about inspections when you visit them onsite? A mistake? 

Well, it’s not necessarily a mistake, but I always like to say “seeing is believing.” I’ve done break tests for customers’ who don’t think that a piece of equipment will break under certain conditions or applications.

Honestly, the main thing that clients or customers’ don’t realize about inspections are how important they are. A big misconception people have is that they have to check their equipment only when there’s an incident, or they are completely unaware of when or how often inspections need to be done.

For example, sometimes a piece of equipment like a sling fails, and I’m called in to inspect it. I’ll ask, “when have you had inspections done last?” Often, they can’t answer, even though it’s important information to know. I’ll usually explain how often that piece of equipment needs work on, and you see their eyes bulge out of their heads. Then, you end up going through when and how often it should be inspected, and you can sometimes tell they haven’t been following those steps. Instead of having inspections done when an accident happens, have inspections done regularly to prevent accidents from happening.

Another thing I often see are people grabbing the wrong piece of equipment, or something that’s failed, or picking up a piece of equipment like safety harness or sling and not conducting a visual inspection first. It’s important to make it a habit, so your equipment doesn’t fail from something that could have been easily prevented if you just looked.

So I guess my biggest tips are: don’t put on an act when the inspector’s around, and actually make it habit to perform visual inspections.

Shane and Son 1
Shane Ford with his son.
Give us your best tip for passing inspections:

I can’t stress this enough—Training, training, training. Everybody needs training! Even people who say they’re confident and know can always use training, or even updated training to keep them fresh. Training, and keeping the importance of safety top-of-mind for your team will eliminate the mis-use of equipment, equipment failures & lots of accidents.

For example, we had a technician who specialized in fall protection (harness’, lanyards, etc,) and found that a lot of gear passed inspection and was being used, and it was not safe to use. The employee that originally told us our equipment was safe to use (and wasn’t), and was actually hired for health & safety, but didn’t have specific training for fall protection. They passed some harnesses that were cut, lanyards that had tears and hooks with defects that would typically never pass any inspection, and employees were using it. This gear  would not arrest a worker if a fall happened—But training for health & safety personnel would help them understand the risk, and what safe equipment actually looks like.

What’s a big misconception businesses have about inspections?  

I think I mentioned this, but a big misconception people have about inspections are how often they need to be done, and this needs to be common knowledge.

Another big misconception is that just anyone can perform inspections, which is not the case. Inspections must be done by a competent person, and it has to be the right person for the right job. Like with the case of the health & safety employee who passed torn and broken fall protection equipment, he may have had a lot of knowledge about general health & safety, but when it comes to human life, that’s often not enough. It has to be the right person for the right job, or a collaboration with someone who is a competent person in that specific field.

Inspections are a great career choice if you’re curious, love to learn, solve problems & are mechanically-inclined. I get to work around food, pharmaceuticals, automotive, manufacturing and so much more. I’m able to learn so much about businesses and jobs here in Ontario that I’d have no exposure to otherwise. It’s actually pretty cool when you start to see all the different industries who use rigging & fall protection gear, and how many lives are affected by a piece of equipment running well.