New light-weight Hex-Hut a safe alternative for welding
Protecting welders from snow, wind and rain while working outdoors is important. But the steel sheds weighing 900 kg and steel-framed tents averaging 225 kg that are often hoisted overhead and lowered into place as shelter can be dangerous.
“I’ve seen those loads shift out of control on rugged terrain and come crashing to the ground, narrowly missing vehicles and people. I’ve seen them contact power lines, causing damage to surrounding facilities,” says Mark Moroney, who has worked as a rig welder in Alberta’s oil patch for 25 years.
Concerned for his own safety and those around him, Moroney has created a portable welding tent called the Hex-Hut — a lighter, safer alternative to other shelters in the field. He partnered with Tangent Design Engineering of Calgary to launch the product this winter to welders in mining, oil and gas, and construction.
The Hex-Hut’s sturdy aluminum frame – draped in fire-retardant, rubberized canvas – folds like an umbrella, straps firmly to the pipe or structure being worked on, and can be set up or dismantled in less than 10 minutes by one person without heavy machinery.
Steel sheds – a deadly threat
Standing 3 m tall by 3 m wide and weighing less than 45 kg, the Hex-Hut “is a much safer tool than other welding shelters,” says Dan Moon, a safety co-ordinator for EnCana in Alberta. He conducted a comprehensive safety analysis of the Hex-Hut, comparing it to steel welding sheds a few years ago when Moroney began building prototypes. Moon worked for an oil field service company back then that bought some of the units.
“If a steel shed fell on a person, it could result in death,” he says. “With a Hex-Hut I could never see anything more serious happening than medical aid, and only infrequently – like if someone slips while setting it up.”
John Page, owner of John W. Page Welding Consulting in Edmonton, says crushed fingers and feet are a “fairly regular occurrence” with heavy welding sheds, as workers stand too close while guiding these structures into place. He routinely recommends the Hex-Hut to customers who rent his automatic pipe welding equipment. “They’re inherently safer and save time and money, because you eliminate heavy equipment on crowded worksites just to move your shelter to the next weld.”
Moon recommends that managers responsible for welding crews should look closely at the Hex-Hut, especially considering Occupational Health and Safety regulations and Bill C-45, which hold CEOs and supervisors responsible for workers’ safety.
Beating the odds
Getting the Hex-Hut to market hasn’t been easy. Moroney spent three years welding prototypes at night in his garage in Cold Lake, Alta., trying to perfect the design. He struggled with demand as companies called, wanting to buy units.
Determined not to give up, he set up an office in Calgary and brought in Tangent, which has worked with other entrepreneurs to develop products and get them to market. Tangent streamlined the Hex-Hut design, simplified components for ease of manufacturing and quicker assembly, and conducted integrity and load scenario tests with specialized 3D software to ensure conformity with accepted engineering standards.
Dave Hutchison, president of Tangent, explains they also introduced a stronger, lighter-weight aluminum for the frame, procured qualified fabricators and now assemble and test each unit prior to shipping.
“They accomplished in a few months what I’d been struggling to achieve for years,” says Moroney, excited at his vision taking shape. “I believe everybody should go home to their families, every day, without a scratch on them. It feels great knowing the Hex-Hut is finally helping to make that happen.”