H+M Industrial EPC Blog Page

Advantages of LED Lighting in Industrial and Hazardous Environments



Contributed by Justin Grubbs, P.E. – I&E Department Manager


Advantages of LED Lighting in Industrial and Hazardous Environments

Advantages of LED Lighting in Industrial and Hazardous Environments

Technology continues to develop and improve in the electronics industry. Solid state electronics continually become more and more energy efficient, smaller in size, and more cost effective to manufacture. The advancements made in this field translate to a wide variety of electrical components. One of these is energy-efficient lighting such as light emitting diode (LED) luminaires. LED lighting has a great number of benefits over traditional High-intensity Discharge (HID) lighting such as Metal Halide or High Pressure Sodium lamps, the main benefits being a large increase in energy efficiency and the life of the lamp.

In an industrial hazardous environment, there can be a large amount of time spent to change a bulb in a traditional HID luminaire. The amount of time spent by maintenance personnel to acquire the correct replacement bulb, fill out hot work permits, job hazard analysis, execute lock out tag out procedures, locate equipment needed such as a man lift, and physically change the bulb adds up over the life of the fixture. This is a very important task as lack of sufficient lighting is a safety concern and can lead to a hazardous condition. For a traditional Metal Halide lamp operated for 12 hours a day, the bulb will need to be replaced an average of every 2.5 years. LED lighting is rated to maintain an acceptable light output for 13.7 years when operated 12 hours a day at an ambient temperature of 131°F, this goes up to 45.7 years at an ambient temperature of 77°F.

The initial cost investment of LED luminaires is approximately 35-40% more, however they consume approximately 20% less energy than a comparable HID luminaire. Additionally, the cost of other materials for the installation of an LED lighting system is much less than that of an HID system. Since the load of LED luminaires is less than HID luminaires, there are fewer feeder breakers needed, fewer lighting contactors needed, and smaller cable can be used which translates to taking up less space in cable trays and using smaller conduit and fittings.

As an example installation, take a project needing a relatively small area of illumination such as a barge/ship dock which is classified as an NEC Class 1, Division 2, group C&D area. Assume that a quantity of 30 Metal Halide HID flood light luminaires rated at 250W are sufficient for the lighting requirements of this area. Comparably, a quantity of 30 LED luminaires rated at 149W will also be sufficient for the lighting needed. The given cost variables are as follows:

  • Cost of LED luminaire is 38% more than HID
  • Maintenance time to change 1 bulb is 4 man-hours total (including permitting and LOTO) at a rate of $60/hour
  • The lighting operates 12 hours a day
  • Replacement HID lamps are $12
  • Energy cost is $0.06/kWhr

The annual energy savings with LED luminaires will be just under $1,100, the annual lamp and maintenance savings will be $3,000. The additional initial investment of the LED luminaires over the HID version will be returned in energy and maintenance savings after 1.5 years. The LED fixtures will completely pay for themselves after 5.3 years, and are rated to continue to operate for another 8.4 years before needing maintenance (in modern fixtures, changing an LED cluster is the same amount of man-hours as changing a traditional bulb). This is for a worst case constant ambient temperature of 131°F; for an ambient temperature of 77°F, it will be 40.4 years after the LEDs have completely paid for themselves before maintenance is needed.

The above example does not take into account the cost reduction in materials needed for installation of the LED luminaires. In this project example, if the luminaires are installed on a 120V system, 4 circuits would be needed for the HID version, whereas only 2 circuits would be needed for the LED version. This results in less breakers purchased, smaller wire/conduit/cable tray needed, less photocells, and fewer lighting contactor circuits. All of these will result in reduced construction labor and material costs.

To summarize, the technology of hazardous area LED luminaires has come a long way since their inception. They continue to become lower in cost, increasingly more energy efficient, and have various configurations of lighting clusters so that the distribution of light can vary from a large oval shape, to a long narrow beam, or an intense spot light. LEDs can also be specified as being a full spectrum cool white or warm white, rather than the light spectrum limitations of Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium HID lighting. Though the initial investment of LED luminaires is more than comparable HID lighting, an LED installation will have a long-term significant cost savings over HID.



Justin Grubbs H+M Industrial EPC

Justin Grubbs, P.E. – I&E Department Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Electrical Engineering

Justin has more than 7 years of industrial engineering, construction and commissioning experience. He has experience with designing, engineering, leading I&E construction, developing plant control documents, directing commissioning efforts, overseeing instrumentation specifications, validating engineering data, specifying I&E material and training operations personnel.

Squad Checking – Project success depends on it.



Contributed by David Bull, Engineering Manager


Squad Checking – Project success depends on it.  

In the design/build environment there is a huge amount of overlap between disciplines. Everything is connected in one way or another. Project progress often depends on the validity of the previous steps. A lack of communication and checking between the engineering disciplines increases the chance of inaccuracies and costly construction fixes.

Squad Checking is a practice that should be employed to help combat this issue throughout all organizations where interdisciplinary work is taking place. This method is something we use extensively at our company to limit surprises. The steps taken to conduct a successful squad check change from project to project depending on the client and the team, but the overall premise is the same.

Why do a Squad Check?

Inaccuracies. No one is perfect. Most teams in this type of work environment are formed by combining diverse backgrounds and expertise. These differences create great teams when a strong foundation for communication is built from the get go. Miscommunication and/or mistakes are never wanted, but they happen. Squad checks help improve accuracy by catching things that other disciplines either miss, were not properly communicated, or cause interference. In the end, this could help save a substantial amount of time and money for a project.

When do a Squad Check?

Problems in engineering can lead to extensive issues down the road. This makes it most important to Squad Check during the engineering side of a project. It is much cheaper to fix things during the engineering and design phase rather during the construction phase. The costliness of construction changes should be explained throughout the team. By understanding the consequences, the entire team will become aware of what can happen when a project stage is rushed through and left unchecked.

Steps to Squad Checking

  1. Have a clear team structure.
    a. Make sure everyone involved in the project knows their role and the roles of the other disciplines. Take time to point out who is responsible for what. This will make things clear as the project moves forward.
  2. Provide all the information to the team.
    a. Make sure all important project documents are up to date and available to the entire team. If changes are made, make sure that is known immediately.
  3. Set up a timeline.
    a. Make sure that Squad Checks happen at the right times. A few good times include when critical parts of the design are being finalized, during equipment layout, and before issuing any items to customers.

If you do this during your project it will help ensure its health and validity. Great things can happen for the client when teams are set up for success, have accountability and work towards a common goal.


David Bull H+M Industrial EPC

David Bull – Engineering Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Chemical Engineering, MBA

David has more than 13 years of industrial engineering experience in operations and project settings. Responsibilities include: process design, optimization and debottlenecking; capital project management; and process unit management. With previous experience in operations for the Dow Chemical Company, David has worked at H+M for the past year in project management.

Lessons from Eleven Years in the Business – Honesty is Key



Contributed by Brad Sawyer, Business Development Manager


Lessons from Eleven Years in the Business – Honesty is Key

H+M Industrial EPC Honesty is Key

I have learned a variety of lessons after 11 years of business development in the Houston Petrochemical industry. Some things were learned the easy way and some…the hard way.  Below are a few of the things that I have learned since I started, things I’m still learning, and why they have helped me.

Relationships Matter

The first thing I learned was that relationships play a bigger role than any text book or professional sales expert would like to admit.  You can learn all of the tricks on professional selling but at the end of the day people will be more likely to give you an opportunity if they like you, assuming you have a competitive product to offer that is.  As human beings, we all act on emotion to some extent. Yes, this includes the decision makers we target.  My mentor told me when I first started in this business that “if people like you, they will find a way to give you an opportunity”.

My main/only objective in my first meeting with a new customer is to get a second meeting. Developing business in this industry is very slow moving and mostly reluctant to change, and most decision makers won’t give you an opportunity on the first visit anyways.  You have no chance of ever doing business with someone if they won’t meet or talk with you.  The whole objective of the first meeting, and every meeting after that, is to be able to have this particular customer meet with you the next time you reach out to them.  Customers will continue to meet with you if they feel comfortable with you. They get comfortable when you develop a personal relationship with them.  Starting out the relationship with a heavy sales pitch can oftentimes make a meeting awkward, therefore making it very difficult to get another meeting.  I feel that as long as customers agree to keep meeting with you, they intend to eventually give you a chance at earning their business.  As soon as they stop meeting with you, the odds of a future opportunity decrease significantly.

You Can’t Know It All

Another lesson I feel I have learned through the years is to never act like you know the answer when you don’t.  People in this business are smart. They probably know more about their needs, and what you’re selling, than you do.  If you come across as a technical expert on your product, your customer will view you as their resource for your product.  If you don’t truly know what you are talking about, then it will be a bad reflection on your company’s product.

Always be comfortable saying when you don’t know an answer. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, your customers will either know or they will eventually find out.  This is a very technical industry and no one knows everything, so it’s alright to say you don’t know and you will get back to them with the correct answer or introduce someone else that is an expert.  I think it’s a huge red flag when a sales person pretends to have the answer when they don’t, as it shows they might be willing to offer the wrong product or service to the customer.  Also be prepared to say when you are wrong or have made a mistake. This will show that you recognized what you did and will be willing to fix it going forward.

Honesty is Key

To summarize the two lessons above, you will find success in sales and business development if you are an honest person.  This is a mostly conservative industry and the people remain employed at the same company for long periods of time, and they don’t forget.  If you come across as a pushy sales person that is an expert on everything petrochem related, you most likely won’t be the person that customers build relationships with.  A lot of times our customers work long hours and when they get away for lunch they don’t want to keep talking about work. They want to talk about something fun (i.e. football or hunting).  If you try to push your product too hard right from the get go, all you’re doing is hurting your chances for the next meeting.

Just like almost any career or profession, if you work hard, stay honest, and enjoy yourself, anyone can be successful in a business development role.



Brad Sawyer – Business Development Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Industrial Distribution Engineering

Brad has more than 10 years of business development experience in the heavy industrial markets including Petrochem, Refining, Power, Mid-stream, and Terminals. His responsibilities include managing the Business Development and Marketing divisions at H+M. Industry experience includes capital projects, turn-arounds, outages, and maintenance along the Texas Gulf coast region.

Did you know you’re a salesperson? The importance of customer service.



Contributed by Brandon Hogan, P.E., Operations Manager 


Did you know you’re a salesperson? The importance of customer service.

Did you know you're a salesperson? The importance of customer service. H+M Industrial EPC

I love going to big box stores to shop.  The workers there are so friendly and helpful.  Anytime I have a question, or need something off of the very top shelf, and enthusiastic worker is always at my assistance.  Your experience too?  Just kidding.  Although I have had some experiences like this, they have been relatively few.

Why do less than stellar customer interactions happen?  I think it is because not all employees recognize the impact one person can have on a client’s perception of the whole organization.  Many times, a single employee is the window that a client has into a company.  If the interaction is negative, the client attributes negativity to the whole organization.  And this is not an easy problem to solve.  Many people want to “do their job”, without realizing that they most likely have a direct impact on whether a client will choose to do business with their company.  Reception, receivables, payables?  All sales jobs.  Project management, engineering?  Sales jobs.  The list goes on and on.  Anyone who makes contact with clients or potential clients is that company’s representative.  It seems like common sense, yet most people have little appreciation for it.

In my company, we implement engineering and construction projects for clients.  Every job we do is different, requiring a custom approach that is dependent on technical requirements and the client company’s project approach.  Within each organization, the individual client project managers often have different approaches, pet peeves and requirements.  So every project has a unique set of constraints that affect the way it can be executed.  Many times, customers have one point of contact with our company. This makes it even more important for us to push that every employee is a salesperson. A bad experience with their point of contact can cause a customer to start having doubts about the company as a whole, which is unfortunate and something all organizations must really watch out for.

With all the moving parts from project to project, it is important to create consistency in as many ways as possible, so that the product feels like your product and a customer can recognize it as your company’s work.  One way to do this is a consistent customer service approach.  Customer service shouldn’t be confined to a “Customer Service Department”. Each employee must be held accountable for the experience they present customers.  It is the responsibility of everyone in the organization to help clients succeed.

How do you create a culture where every person in your organization will be a salesperson for you?  Frankly, I don’t know, but here is what we are trying:

  1. Telling employees that they ARE sales people (duh!).
  2. Implementing customer service metrics as a part of the evaluation process for all employees. This helps hold them accountable for their actions.
  3. Creating an environment that desires client long-term success, not just the success of any individual project profitability.

Customer service is a concept that should be spread throughout the entire organization, not just obvious positions like account management and business development. Everyone has a chance of communicating with a client, and the significance of great customer service from management must be made BEFORE that interaction happens.


BrandonHogan - Did you know you’re a salesperson? – The importance of customer service.Brandon Hogan, P.E. – Operations Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Chemical Engineering, MBA

Brandon has more than 14 years of industrial engineering experience in operations and project settings. Responsibilities included managing the operations of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction divisions. His past experience includes over 10 years of engineering with The Lubrizol Corporation in Deer Park including process design, capital project management and engineering optimization.

How-To Hire a Sure Thing: Bettering your odds with assessments.



Contributed by Levi Taylor, Human Resources Manager 


How-To Hire a Sure Thing: Bettering your odds with assessments.

Bettering Odds Hiring Process H+M Industrial EPC

“If you think that it is expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur”? How often have you heard this cliché? The idea that value is found in the quality of work is not a new concept. However, it does seem difficult to define such value in the modern business world. Large companies have spent billions on developing assessments, tests, surveys, and programs to evaluate candidates in a seemingly talent commodity paradigm. With all of the data that is extracted from the plethora of tactics, the end result still has a company betting on their selection to hire.

The traditional interview has been shown to have a nominal success rate of identifying top candidates. Many candidates can present themselves exceptionally, naturally skewing the impression given to the interviewer. Yet, often times, their performance and skillset underperforms. This leaves the hiring manager claiming “well, they were great in the interview.”

While there is no sure bet when it comes to the hiring process, there are scalable assessment solutions to tip the odds in the company’s favor. Having the candidate submit to assessments not only gives the hiring manager a larger pool of data for informed decision making, it adds job and company related, quantifiable evidence that allows the best fit candidate to standout. There are multiple applications in the pre-employment testing realm, the easiest to incorporate and interpret are those that consider “fit to company culture” as well as the job related skills.

Personality Assessments

When evaluating a new employee, certain characteristics will always be sought out. Leadership, charisma, and the ability to be a team player are anecdotal and typically paramount for workplace success. However, things like agreeableness, company loyalty, motivation are less discernible but may be more indicative of a successful hire into the company culture. While hundreds of personality inventories exist in the clinical and industrial/organizational psychology world, only a few can possibly capture the traits that accentuate the culture of a company. This would require an organization to take an introspective look at the true core values of their employee population and pair them with the traits that are required to emulate the vision of the future. Once the assessment is selected in regards to the ideal traits, the company must administer the assessment to the current population. The range that is found within the current population will serve as the baseline for establishing the profile of the ideal candidate. Although this is not at perfect solution for eliminating turnover rates, it does reduce the likelihood of placing a bad bet.

Hands-On Demonstration

Job related skills are far easier to identify but may be more difficult to quantify. For instance, an Administrative Assistant may be given measures for grammar, business math, and software like Excel with little preparation or research. However, extremely technical roles, like engineers or hands-on labor, require skills that cannot be judged on a knowledge based assessment alone. Positions that are given a knowledge based assessment should also be subject to a demonstration or hands-on assessment that validates the ability to apply the skills. Welders in the construction industry complete a weld test that requires them to fit pieces of metal to specifications and then perform a weld that passes code requirements. Manufacturing Engineers are given product components with schematics and then required to assemble the complete product to gauge mechanical ability and reasoning. Regardless of the skills required to the complete the job, some level of demonstration should be introduced to validate the walk to the proverbial talk.

Assessments give candidates the ability to audition their true self. Even the most confident people are somewhat nervous in an interview setting and everyone tends to behave themselves. Giving candidates the opportunity to shine in a less anxiety provoking environment, like an assessment, can give a far better measure of relevant behavior.

The goal of this effort is to identify the candidate that best exonerates the skills needed for the job as well as emulates the company culture that company leadership envisions. Although developing the tools that properly identify the desired characteristics in a candidate may not lead to a sure bet, it definitely goes a long way to find a candidate to put money on.


Levi Taylor Human Resources H+M Industrial EPC

Levi Taylor, MS, SPHR- Human Resources Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

M.S. in Psychology 

Levi has an MS in Psychology paired with over 10 years of Human Resources, training and workforce development experience in both U.S. and international companies including those in the engineering, construction, manufacturing, petrochemical and power industries.

Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize – The Best Lesson My Mentor Ever Taught Me



Contributed by Kevin Bautz, Senior Project Manager


Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize – The Best Lesson My Mentor Ever Taught Me

Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize - H+M Industrial EPC

Several years ago, I met a gentleman who had achieved great successes throughout his career. He had held various positions of responsibility, created and marketed useful products for his companies, owned and operated businesses, and mentored young professionals providing advice and guidance. I was one of those fortunate enough to receive mentoring from this man.  He was my Jonah (If this doesn’t ring a bell, I recommend you read The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt).

It was through many interactions and deep discussions that I learned why mentoring had become his latest passion.  He had achieved all he personally desired and realized he could have an exponentially greater impact by mentoring those who had similar traits.  He always said if he only knew in his 30’s what he learned by his 60’s, his career would have been even more successful and come with greater ease.  I share this to show that he was deeply committed to his projects.

I, being one of his “projects”, felt the level of commitment and value immediately.  It was early on in my mentorship that I became responsible for my department and began feeling the effects of years of neglectful “leadership”.  My mentor provided the grounding needed to evaluate my department. He provided the knowledge to help shape a vision and he had the experience to make it even better.  He shared three words: Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize.  You cannot put the cart before the horse.  You must be stable before you attempt to standardize.  You must be standardized before you optimize.  He explained to me that being a simple man, he liked to keep things simple.  He also said that old age made him forget things so he tried to remember as little as possible. I sometimes think this was just a ploy to play-down the outward simplicity of what he shared.

So what was the impact of those three words?  Well, for starters, they straightened up the department and put it on the path to success. That path included:

  • Stabilize. The department had vacancies in key positions, other positions only had temporary support, interdepartmental relationships were strained, expectations were unclear and/or not being followed, and the list goes on and on. Being the first goal, these received immediate attention and were corrected.
  • Standardize. Each shift operated in its own manner. Expectations were clear but still varied between individuals. Reporting and formatting differed day-to-day and procedures lacked details.  With some focus, teamwork, and additional time these items were standardized.
  • Optimize. We strove to achieve this step and knew that optimization would be ongoing.  Optimization would be sustainable as long as stability and standardization had been established.  When we reached this stage, it felt like the sky was the limit.  Creativity, decision-making, results, teamwork…everything seemed to just click while being positioned on a solid base.

As for the lasting impact of Stabilize, Standardize, Optimize, much like my seasoned mentor, it is simple enough for me to remember.  It is applicable in more instances than I first realized.  I have used it for work assignments, large projects, leading departments, life events, and even seemingly simple tasks.  It is a shared vision that helps people to see and achieve opportunities without falling victim to constant inefficiency, confusion, or a “flavor-of-the-month” feel.

These three words are also, as I found out later on, what my mentor was using to guide me.  He evaluated me, determined my current stage, and worked a plan to move me through the stages.  He knew that he could not mold me and teach me effectively (Standardize) if I lacked a solid foundation (Stabilize).  He knew that he could not push the limits and test my ceiling (Optimize) if he could not understand or anticipate my thoughts and actions (Standardize).  The realization that my mentor used this to achieve success in so many situations left an even greater impact on me.  How can three words that we hear all of time in business (but usually separately) be brought together to drive success?

Try it for yourself.  Think of a current situation, assignment, or project.  Evaluate it to determine whether it is stabilized, standardized, or optimized.  Plan your path to move it from one stage to the next and act.



Kevin Bautz – Senior Project Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Chemical Engineering

Kevin has more than 13 years of industrial engineering experience in operations and project settings. His past experience ranges from process and equipment engineering in semiconductors, process simulation engineer for the oil & gas and chemical industries, and key management roles in engineering and operations for The Sun Products Corporation in Pasadena, TX and Bowling Green, KY. Kevin joined H+M in 2014.

Ensuring Project Success and Profitability: The importance of designers in engineering projects.



Contributed by Chris Chandler – Design Coordinator 


Ensuring Project Success and Profitability: The importance of designers in engineering projects.

Success and Profitability - The importance of designers on engineering projects.

Sometimes engineering companies only have one chance to provide services to a client. The future relationship depends greatly on the package delivered. Whether mechanical or E&I, providing a quality package on schedule is usually the deciding factor whether or not projects will be awarded in the future.  Profitability is a major factor when determining if an engineering company will survive and be able to provide their services in the future. While all members of the project team play an important role, the designer’s contribution can really make or break things in terms of profitability.

Have you ever wondered why a client uses a particular engineering company over and over again? Or worse, why they never use them again? The three main factors include:

  • Cost of services
  • Quality of the package
  • Schedule

Designer payroll can be a large portion of engineering project cost but what they produce, if done right, is worth every penny.  Often, the majority of charged hours come from the designers on the project. This makes it increasingly important to know your staff. If a top paid designer consistently spends 1 hour a day out of a 10 hour day (10% of their time) being unproductive, project profitability will suffer. These situations are not uncommon and must be fixed quickly and prevented from the beginning if possible.

The experience type and level of an assigned designer can also affect the bottom line of the projects they work on. This is a huge indicator for success. They must have the skills to complete the task efficiently. Even though small capital projects include most of the same metrics as large capital projects, the way the designer approaches and works the job should be evaluated before kickoff to ensure small capital characteristics are taken into account.  Smaller projects may not allow the built-in overhead costs that are usually part of a large job.  1% of a 10,000 MH project allows 100 hours for printing, document control, and other overhead costs. On the other hand, 1% of a 1,000 hour job only allows 10 hours for these functions.  This means the designer must manage resources properly while working these smaller types of projects to stay within budget.  Whoever does the hiring for a company needs to understand the company’s project style and hire accordingly. 10% of a small project may be as little as 100 hours (two and a half weeks). If a senior designer is hired to lead projects for smaller cap revamp type projects but is only experienced leading large capital projects it is likely that efficiency and profitability will suffer.

A designer working on smaller revamp type projects will need to stay flexible and be able to wear different hats to ensure success. If they are not willing to step outside the boundaries of the typical designer role, the costs may become too high.  A 1,000,000 MH green field project over a two year period could employ a survey team, multiple senior designers, multiple modelers, CAD operators and a document control team. There is enough work in larger projects to justify this type of team and those teams members will probably remain in these roles for most of that time. On a small revamp project, let’s say 4,000 hours, there may only be one senior designer in each discipline acting as a working lead for one or two CAD operators. The senior designer must understand what tasks he can do efficiently. They must also realize when/if to manage and delegate to the CAD operators or other available team members. If the senior designer understands this and efficiently utilizes lower level drafters or CAD operators, the composite rate throughout the project will keep project costs within budget.

The goal of any Engineering company should be to provide the client with a package that will make the project a success. The client hopefully understands that the company must also make a profit to be around for bidding on the next project.  Projects can be successful to both clients and the engineering company if it is staffed with the right designers that set both sides up for success….it’s a win win!


Chris Chandler H+M Industrial EPC

Chris Chandler – Design Coordinator at H+M Industrial EPC

Chris has more than 30 years experience in piping design, coordination and project management in industrial settings. His project design and supervision responsibilities have ranged from small capital projects to multimillion dollar projects. Chris has worked at H&M for ten years, with previous work experience at Jacobs, CDI, Enterprise Products and Mustang Engineering.


Economics of Safety in the Workplace – What Does Safety Really Cost?



Contributed by Jay Bice – HSE Manager


Economics of Safety in the Workplace – What Does Safety Really Cost?

What does safety really cost? H+M Industrial EPC

What does safety really cost?  In the old days, employee safety was not exactly valued.    The injuries or fatalities that happened during construction were often just figured into the cost of doing business.  For example, during the construction of the Empire State Building in 1931, five workers lost their lives.  From 1933-1937, eleven workers died building the Golden Gate Bridge. As you can see in the picture below, there was no true safety culture.


Jump forward 40 years and it seems that safety was still not a focal point of the industry. While the World Trade Center was being built during the early 1970’s, sixty workers lost their lives during the construction.  Eventually, in 1970, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law, establishing OSHA.  This was the start of companies realizing the value of ensuring employee safety.

Another 40 years later, the One World Trade Center began construction.  This video  shows that safety is becoming a true workplace value and not just an accepted risk.  During the construction of One World Trade Center, the fourth tallest building in the world, two workers lost their life…a drastic decrease from earlier years.

Some have a perception that safety only costs the organization money. This perception leaves much of the story untold. To understand how safety really affects your bottom line you must understand the direct costs versus the indirect costs.  Direct costs are associated with the initial cost of an injury or accident; the cost of a doctor’s visit, the cost of new fender the truck needs. Then you have the indirect costs that are much like the iceberg analogy; 90% of the cost of an incident is hidden as an indirect cost.

Direct Costs:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Payroll/Indemnity

Indirect Costs:

  • Replacement Employees
  • Production Delays
  • Overtime
  • Lost Work Time
  • Reduced Productivity
  • Loss of Expertise

Indirect costs are staggering in comparison to the direct cost of an incident.  Indirect costs take into account the time it takes your safety professionals and management to respond and manage the incident.  A major indirect cost is the lost productivity of those involved.

Lost productivity just scratches the surface of indirect costs incurred after an incident. The question is, what does that really cost?  If it delays your project, it could send a message to your client that you cannot keep your deadlines.  What could that cost you? Possibly a future contract worth millions of dollars to your organization.  What about insurance cost to cover your losses, or the increased EMR (experience modifier rating) rating you receive because of the incident? This could affect future contracts since clients are more frequently awarding projects based on these statistics.

This calculator will give you the estimated impact of a workplace injury on a company’s profitability. For example, if a company makes a 10% profit margin and we look at an incident that has a direct cost of $20,000 and indirect cost of $22,000, you will have a total cost of $42,000.  The company would have to generate $220,000 in sales to cover the indirect cost and almost half a million dollars to cover the total cost of one minor injury.  This shows how the costs of one incident can really add up.

So how are you going to control these costs? Add more safety professionals? Add more training? Hire only experienced employees?  Just one tactic alone will not solve all safety problems.

Implementing an effective incident reporting and investigation program will help demonstrate the value a company puts on employees safety. Reporting incidents and near misses are extremely important to organizations that want to improve their safety systems and culture. Near miss investigations are typically viewed as a negative finding. It is actually the opposite. A true near miss will have minimal cost and no injuries or damage. These show where the gaps in your system are before they have an opportunity to cost you a fortune. This is a prime opportunity to investigate, identify gaps, and report to your management team the recommended corrective actions.

Corrective actions will typically come in four categories:

  • Elimination of the hazard
  • An engineering control of the hazard
  • An administrative control of the hazard
  • PPE to protect against the hazard

The most effective way to approach and minimize the losses is to first have a very safety supportive management team.  Safety has a true place in a company’s culture, where everyone on staff is a safety leader and safety is not the sole responsibility of the company’s safety professionals.  Everyone should have a direct role in safety, and ultimately, it is the responsibility of management to execute projects not only on time but safely as well.  A quick fix could be to add someone with “safety” in their title to every crew, but how cost effective would that be?  Some can sustain that kind of cost but most would not be able to remain competitive in the marketplace with that increase in staff.  Management must understand and support the safety culture.

Safety does cost money, but it can cost a lot more if safety is not a valued part of a company’s culture.  I have been around the gulf coast industrial business all my life. I have seen my share of what can go wrong. There have been a number of incidents that help remind me every day of the importance of having a safety culture valued by all.


Jay Bice H+M Industrial EPC

Jay Bice – HSE Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

Certificate of Technology in Occupational Health and Safety 

Jay has more than 20 years of industrial health and safety, experience in construction, pipeline environmental services and petrochemical facilities. He is responsible for developing and executing safety and health policy and objectives for H+M, as well as any sub-contractor workforce all of which represents exposure of a high risk nature. Jay provides management oversight to various safety and occupational health related programs. These programs include injury prevention, fire and emergency services, behavior safety, drug and alcohol prevention, training and occupational health. Jay is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

Small Project vs. Large Project Planning – Schedule Slippage and Recovery



Contributed by Matt McQuinn – Director of Construction


Small Project vs. Large Project Planning – Schedule Slippage and Recovery

Small vs. Large Project Planning  - H+M Industrial EPC


It’s not that you shouldn’t do it, it’s that you shouldn’t HAVE to do it.

As the summer comes to a close and our daughters birthday approaches later this fall, my wife and I have been kicking around ideas for how to celebrate. This isn’t just any birthday, it’s her GOLDEN birthday which is extra special, according to my wife, as she will be turning two on the 2nd. My wife takes birthdays seriously and the only thing that might make her happier than a birthday celebration is a trip to Disney World.

We are now in the process of laying out our Disney plan to ensure we make the most of our daughter’s first visit. Meanwhile, we are working to cross off the remaining stragglers from the “2015 Summer Bucket List” we created to have some fun while getting to know an area relatively new to us. From a planning and execution standpoint, these two scopes are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

For the purposes of the next few paragraphs:

  • The summer bucket list will be labeled our “large project” (3 months).
  • The Disney trip will be labeled our “small project” (1 week).
  • Both projects have well-defined scopes.
  • The large project has a long list of activities varying greatly in terms of level of effort needed for completion, along with plenty of time in the schedule to complete the scope.
  • The small project contains a limited number of activities to be executed during a very short window of opportunity.

There is a laundry list of differences of how large vs. small projects are planned, executed, and measured. A few of the key differences are seen in:

  • Budgeting
  • Tracking
  • Work breakdown structures
  • Level of detail in project schedule
  • Reporting metrics
  • Contingency levels

For small to medium size projects (<$20MM), such as those performed by H+M, the most detrimental factor to project success for both the owner and contractor is schedule slippage.  Why? The recovery time simply isn’t available on small projects.

On our large project (summer bucket list), the remaining scope is quickly outpacing the remaining schedule duration. The list included twenty activities to be completed within a ninety day schedule, one activity every four and a half days. Sounds simple, right? Especially when the activities are things like “visit a new playground” or “go out for sno-cones”. But, as we watch the Houston, TX temperatures top 100F the entire week, activities like “go to the zoo” and “have a picnic” may need to keep sliding right. There will always be unforeseen events that affect schedule logic which is why it is imperative to complete activities as they become available. This keeps from eating up float early in the project life.  The key to large projects is finding activities like “lunch with Dad” which can be pulled up despite the 100F heat. This keeps from back-loading the schedule and controlling population densities in critical work areas.

How does this early slippage happen? Large projects give a false sense of security. During the first 25-50% of the project it is easy to adjust the plan and sequencing to fit the circumstances. Justifications for this include “the original schedule had built-in contingency” or “it was resource leveled to minimize work force”. If there is sufficient time to add resources to work multiple fronts simultaneously or if another activity can be pulled forward for resource limited projects, it often times does not hurt the project to slide activities right. Unfortunately, there are a similar number of cases where the amount of parallel critical paths caused by all the shifts start growing faster than Pinocchio’s nose.  On large projects there are several avenues to recovery, however most of them add significant project cost.

Small projects do not afford the same execution flexibility that a large project allows.  As the market has fluctuated, more and more large companies are willing the take the smaller projects as fill in work.  We have been seeing the results of large companies doing small projects, and it’s not good.

One of the first construction managers I worked for coined the phrase “Doyle’s Law: Organization Breeds Efficiency, Efficiency Breeds Productivity.” Although many of the same principles of large projects do in fact apply to small and medium projects, the execution strategies do not. Three months before our trip, thanks to Doyle’s Law, I could have told you when and where we will have a lunch date with Winnie the Pooh, how we are going to utilize our Fast Pass, which rides are toddler approved, and which additional park has local purchasing availability in case we just haven’t had enough.

Would it be reasonable to arrive at Disney World for the first time expecting success without having some rough ideas of how to accomplish the goals of the trip?  I think not.  So, why would it be reasonable to award a project that is critical to plant operations to a contractor who cannot clearly demonstrate their road map to successfully meet your project objectives?  It is important to understand each contractor’s strengths and weaknesses along with what type of projects fit them best. You definitely don’t want Uber on speed dial trying to squeeze Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom into the final day of your project.

You see, I’m confident we will knock out our large project (summer bucket list) despite the slow start. I am willing to suffer through a long drive home from Galveston with a fussy almost-two-year-old if we have to jam the zoo and building sand castles into the same day. There’s always a cost associated with recovery. That’s why I don’t like to do it.

Did I mention this is the first we’ve done a summer bucket list? Oh and by the way, we’re visiting Magic Kingdom day #2, not day #5.


Matt McQuinn H+M Industrial EPC

Matt McQuinn – Director of Construction at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Mechanical Engineering

Matt has more than 10 years of industrial engineering, construction, and commissioning experience in both domestic and foreign project settings. Responsibilities include: engineering drawing and specification interpretation; resource planning and allocation; project schedule analysis; constructability reviews; contracting strategies and management. With previous EPC contracting experience for CB&I, Matt joined H+M in 2014 to lead the construction efforts.

Prevent Nuisance Tripping – Proper Conductor Sizing Techniques per 2014 National Electrical Code



Contributed by Justin Grubbs, P.E. – I&E Department Manager


Prevent Nuisance Tripping – Proper Conductor Sizing Techniques per 2014 National Electrical Code

Prevent Nuisance Tripping - Proper Conductor Sizing Techniques per 2014 National Electrical Code - H+M Industrial EPC

I have gone skydiving more than a few times in my life. As an active and licensed skydiver, the safety requirements involved are clear and have been established as the cornerstone of the sport. The requirements range from medical considerations to equipment specs, each one extensively thought through and put in place to ensure safety from the time you put on your rig to the time you land under your parachute. Coincidentally, these type of regulations are also common in my line of work. Just like with skydiving, the techniques used when sizing conductors for electrical projects are imperative to the process. You wouldn’t jump out of an airplane with the wrong parachute, so why design electrical systems with incorrectly sized conductors?

Throughout my experience working in the oil, gas, and petrochemical processing industry, I have seen numerous instances of errors committed while sizing conductors and performing voltage drop calculations per the National Electrical Code® (NFPA 70 – NEC). These errors can have a wide variety of effects which range from causing equipment to operate incorrectly or inefficiently to potentially causing serious injury or death to personnel. There are many factors and considerations which must be taken into account when performing these calculations.

For the purposes of this article, assume that we are sizing a conductor which meets the requirements of Table 310.15(B)(16) (formerly Table 310.16) of the 2014 National Electrical Code. Furthermore, assume that a THHN copper conductor will be used. The first consideration one must make when determining the appropriate conductor size is the temperature rating of the conductor. In this application, a 90°C rated conductor is being used. Does this mean one should use the ampacity listed in the 90°C column of this table? Perhaps surprisingly, no, it does not. Remember that the temperature rating in this table also applies to termination points of the conductor as these will be operating at the same temperature as the conductor itself, see 310.15(A)(B) and 110.14(C). In my experience, the most common rating for a low voltage breaker terminal is 75°C. According to an Eaton® (who also manufactures breakers for Rockwell Automation®) Application Paper, the terminals on molded-case circuit breakers are rated for a maximum temperature of 75°C. With this information, the correct column to use for conductor ampacity rating is the 75°C column.

Table 310.15(B)(16) provides a starting point for sizing a conductor. This table makes a number of assumptions, the most notable of which is that the conductor is installed in an environment with an ambient temperature of 30°C (86°F). Most applications in my experience have exceeded this ambient temperature requirement (especially when installed in Texas) and have therefore required an adjustment factor to be used. Table 310.15(B)(2) contains these adjustment factors.

Voltage drop is referenced in a number of places in the NEC as an Informational Note. Section 210.19(A) IN No. 4 is the first reference to voltage drop in the code. The significance of this is that Informational Notes as defined in the NEC are NOT code requirements. These are intended to provide recommendations for best engineering practices and not enforceable as a requirement of NEC, see 90.5(C). This being said, the NEC is intended to be a minimum requirement for electrical installations. It is published by the National Fire Protection Association as a means to mitigate harm to personnel or property. In most cases, good engineering practices, industry standards, and client specifications have requirements which are above and beyond NEC; voltage drop is by far the most common example of this. Consider a 3-phase 480V MCC lineup which is fed from any number of upstream transformers and switchgear. According to NEC, the total voltage drop of all feeder and load conductors to a connected load should be no more than 5% voltage drop for reasonable efficiency of operation. If this MCC were connected to a load which contained protective relaying, even this level of voltage drop may cause nuisance tripping. Additionally, if the voltage drop is too great at the load terminals, the increase in the current passing through the load conductors may cause upstream overcurrent protective devices to trip.

Whether it is skydiving or conductor sizing, it is important not to jump into (or out of) something without understanding all necessary factors. These factors are vital to safe and reliable operational decisions. The potential issues that stem from improperly sizing conductors vary in severity but are all important nonetheless. Always make sure to double check codes, applicable specifications, and industry recommendations to help decrease the likelihood of issues that could arise.


References: 2014 National Electrical Code® published by the National Fire Protection Association®, Eaton® Application Paper AP01200004E


Justin Grubbs H+M Industrial EPC

Justin Grubbs, P.E. – I&E Department Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

B.S. in Electrical Engineering

Justin has more than 7 years of industrial engineering, construction and commissioning experience. He has experience with designing, engineering, leading I&E construction, developing plant control documents, directing commissioning efforts, overseeing instrumentation specifications, validating engineering data, specifying I&E material and training operations personnel.