Hoban Equipment Ltd. (HEL) capped an already memorable year with top honours at the B.C. Road Builders Convention, in early December, in Victoria.
After relocating their headquarters last summer from the Shuswap to the old Kal Tire Building on 48th Avenue in Vernon, the family-run construction firm ended 2013 by claiming the 11th annual Deputy Minister’s Contractor of the Year Award for safety innovation from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
They also took the runner-up spot for grading contractor of the year at the December convention.
The innovation award was the result of Hoban’s employee proximity alerting system, which they developed in partnership with World Tech Solutions.
The recognition is the result of three years of developing a control system for aggregate crushing plants, which not only allows the whole plant to be controlled from one digital control panel, but puts proximity alarms in all of the hazard areas of the plant to notify the plant operator when workers enter high-hazard or low-visibility areas.
This system is the vision of Adam Hoban, a third-generation member of the family that has been operating the business since 1966.
“The timing for these awards couldn’t be more perfect,” said Adam, who noted the company plans to launch the proximity alerting system to other companies in early spring.
Hoban has installed the system on its mobile crushing plant, which the company uses on projects all over Western Canada. It features a large touch screen that controls the plant, allowing an operator to turn the system on and off, in sequence. It also has built-in job costing, reporting, quality control, employee identification and emergency stop functions.
“The operator can’t see all locations on the plant and that’s what the proximity sensors do,” said Adam.
Regarding the relocation of the company headquarters, he said the decision was both logistical and family motivated.
“There’s a bigger labour pool to draw from in the area. There’s more skill to draw from,” he said.
“We all live, as a family, in the Vernon area, so we wanted to bring our business closer to the city and offer more opportunities to people.
“Not a lot of people know we’re in Vernon.”
Adam noted HEL is in the process of securing industrial land in the area to construct a new office and works yard.
Hoban employs roughly 300 workers at peak season, with projects all over Western Canada. They recently expanded their northern operation with the construction of a shop in Prince George.
Recent ventures include a road project in Spence’s Bridge, near Merritt, which required 40,000 tons of asphalt. They also built 30 kilometres of highway in the Fort Nelson area.
The most notable local projects Hoban has worked in recently are the Alexis Park Road improvement and Turtle Mountain development (up to phase three).
“We’ve always worked around the area,” said Adam.
The deputy minister’s awards recognize construction and maintenance companies demonstrating excellence in the categories of grading, paving, bridges and structures, and highway maintenance work throughout the province. The award for excellence in safety innovation was added last year.
“The most important aspect of a road construction or rehabilitation project is safety,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“Our contractors go the extra mile to come up with innovative solutions to make the workplace safer, and Hoban Equipment deserves to be recognized this year for its employee proximity alerting system.”
Added Eric Foster, MLA for Vernon-Monashee: “Hoban Equipment Ltd. is a great partner in our community and has been providing services that keep our roads and highways safe for almost 50 years.”
The other finalists in the safety innovation category are Winvan Paving Ltd. for the Jack-hammer Water Attachment and Mainroad Contracting, Lower Mainland, for the Cone Zone Go-Cart Ride.
The runner-up grading contractor award brought HEL in just behind Windley Construction, who won top prize for the new highway along Wood Lake. HEL was honoured for its upgrade to the Caribou Connector highway south of Prince George.
William Hoban, project manager and Adam’s brother, was pleased with the result.
“All of our employees worked really hard to bring this project together on schedule,” he said.
“Everyone made a lot of sacrifices and worked some very long hours and they should all be proud of this accomplishment.”