This Canadian success story is part of this week’s oil and gas sector series.
To learn more about export opportunities for companies in this sector, please read Canada’s oil and gas sector – demonstrating value brings international opportunities.
For its first three years in business, United Safety built up its credibility in Alberta’s oil patch — and then started looking outside of Canada for opportunity. Today, while the company still does plenty of work in Canada, it also counts 13 different countries on at least two other continents as its customers.
“We supply goods and services to major energy-producing companies around the world,” said CEO Lee Whittaker, who founded the company in 1987. “We sell industrial safety products, safety consulting and safety training at everything from oilfields, refineries, gas plants and power-generation facilities to ensure that the workforces and the public remain safe.”
Most oil and gas companies contract out the maintenance part of their operations and Whittaker’s company basically runs the project management of the safety component of that monumental task.
“The owner/operators of the facilities contract all these folks — scaffolders, welders, pipefitters — and bring them to the site,” Whittaker explained. “You can imagine many hundreds of people arriving at a given site. That creates all kinds of interesting challenges. We go in and help them get organized around that. We have a pretty big piece of it, which is the safety of the human asset. We also get involved in mitigating safety-related challenges which may include preventing environmental spills and that kind of thing.”
The overseas work began in Vietnam after one of its large multinational customers from Canada asked United Safety to service an offshore job in that country.
“It’s a big job to launch outside of your home country,” Whittaker said. “We launched into Vietnam first and then we broadened out in the Far East — Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines. That was all offshore work. Then we moved into Africa, and then the Middle East and it’s a been a continuous march since then.”
“Our whole global operation is supported by Canadian banks,” Whittaker said. “They’re not known for their liberal mentality. The accounts receivable insurance from EDC helps the banks to relax a little. EDC has also helped save us from doing business with undesirable people.”