As a child role-playing with his nine siblings in the hills of northern Scotland, Ed Torrance favoured freedom-fighting icon Sir William Wallace.Decades later, after losing his cherished oldest brother to a battle with a work-related illness, Torrance turned his heavy, brave heart to crusading for improvements in Canada’s health, safety and environment (HSE) field. The sword Torrance brandishes each day is his fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which ultimately saves lives by enabling businesses to conduct monitoring and inspection services without putting workers in perilous positions on the front lines. It is a war in which Canadian industry is gaining the upper hand, with help from an arsenal of high-tech UAVs capable of performing thermal/infrared imaging inspection and many other critical duties. Torrance’s squadron can do everything from detecting small flaws in infrastructure or equipment to preventing large-scale disasters that take a massive toll on the environment and on a company’s bottom line.

1. What was it like growing up in Scotland with nine siblings?

I have a lot of great memories. The town where we lived was situated just below the Ochil Hills, where we spent a lot of time climbing and playing, pretending to be Sir William Wallace, Scotland’s greatest hero. We also had a plot of land where my father grew every vegetable he could squeeze in. The great thing about having so many brothers and sisters is the sharing of everything each of us had. This has had a positive effect on my attitude to giving to those less fortunate than me.

2. How many of you came to Canada and how often do you visit the homeland?

Only two brothers and I came to Canada. My older brother George arrived first, and he had a huge impact on my life in many ways. Unfortunately, George suffered a work-related illness that eventually took his life. This great loss caused me to become a better health and safety professional by studying the causes of many chronic work-related diseases, which resulted in me better identifying protective measures to possibly save others from work-related illnesses.

3. What are your memories of your first impressions after immigrating to Canada?

I arrived in Toronto and loved the vast difference with the way of life in Canada and what I was used to in Scotland. Canada opened doors I could only dream about in Scotland, and I quickly learned that in Canada, opportunities were open for the taking if you worked hard and furthered your education. I still love Canada with all my heart.

4. You are a proud father to three and grandfather to one. What does family mean to you and are you happy with your work/life balance?

Family is everything to me. The years go by very quickly, and I always regret the work-related travel I did that took me away from my two oldest sons for extended periods of time during their young years. At that time, I had no concept of how quick my children would grow up and how much of their young precious lives I was missing. My youngest son has had it much better as I did realize before he came along just how precious these young years are and how quick they go by. I have spent much more time with my youngest son Malcolm.

5. You have been in the health safety, environment and risk management game for more than a quarter-century. From your perspective, what are the key ways in which the industry has evolved?

In the 1980s, my HSE assessments of the workplace clearly indicated that numerous companies complied with safety requirements when OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) regulations stated they must. Regulatory compliance seemed to be one of the main reasons for the development and the implementation of HSE procedures. I see a vast difference today in regards to employees not being shy or afraid to refuse to conduct unsafe work. This includes management and workers in the field. Safety has taken on a much more integrated function in the day-to-day work activities, and most companies I have consulted to are truly concerned about safety and the environment. This is clearly demonstrated by the effective and efficient HSE management systems they have in place.

6. You have worked on massive projects including Hibernia off the East Coast and in the Alberta oil sands. Does the difficultyand stress rise in proportion to the scope of a project when it comes to monitoring health, safety and risk management?

I love my career, and the more responsibility I have, the better I like it. One of the great things about new projects is having the opportunity to develop HSE management systems from the ground up. Risk management activities are an excellent opportunity for professionals like me to determine weaknesses in the HSE management system and identify project design improvements. Hazard & operability studies (HAZOP) facilitation gives me the opportunity to encourage participation from competent project engineers who can identify issues relating to hazards in the project design and the corrective measures required to improve on the design of the project.

7. You have had assignments around the globe, including Africa and the U.K. Do you enjoy the challenges that come with working overseas?

Yes, I did, and I learned a lot about life including the fact that regardless of where we are, people are much the same all over the world. Just like us Canadians, people in
these other countries are trying their best to give their families a safe and prosperous life.

8. What are the main differences between the safety industry here and abroad?

My experience has shown me that, unfortunately, not all commonly known HSE procedures are applied in other countries.

9. Besides the oil patch, in which you have worked extensively over the last 26 years, what industries could use your company TSRM the most?

Mining, power generation, chemical plants, wind farms, construction, transportation, marine industry, and many others. TSRM offers all types of industry the professional expertise of senior HSE and risk management consultants as well as our newest professional service – UAV integrity inspection services.

10. What types of projects do you see doing in the mining industry and how can your business help the mining firms’ bottom line?

TSRM consultants have established a reputation as true HSE and risk management professionals capable of successfully completing any HSE and risk management assignment. Mining equipment such as conveyors can have a close-up visual inspection without putting worker lives at risk. Our UAV integrity inspection services are a great addition to our other services. Our UAVs can conduct numerous types of inspections while a plant is in operation, whereas it used to require a complete shutdown of operations in order for the inspection to go ahead.

11. The slump in the Canadian oil patch is well documented. How has it affected TSRM, and what do you see in the crystal ball for Alberta’s struggling, oil-and-gas-reliant economy?

Like thousands of other contractors, TSRM has felt the pain of fewer contracts. The Alberta economy is going to recover, and while it may not recover back to the pace of
2013 and before, it will slowly get better and more people will regain employment.

12. Does TSRM’s exclusive use of the Aeryon SkyRanger UAV give you a significant advantage over your competitors?

Absolutely. The Aeryon SkyRanger is one of the most
technically advanced UAVs in the world. It is manufactured in Waterloo, Ont.,
so in addition to the SkyRanger being a Canadian product, it is also a
sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicle and capable of safely operating in our
Canadian environments, summer and winter.

13. How do the thermal imaging and infrared capabilities that your UAVs possess translate to more effective video inspection and monitoring of such things as pipeline integrity?

The infrared imaging video can be used to confirm temperature differences in ground surface, equipment parts, very small pipeline product leaks in flanges, pumps, etc., which are not easy to observe and pick up with the naked eye. The intention is to identify equipment failures in the early stages, before they result in an environmental disaster costing many millions of dollars for clean-up and regulatory fines. Another great thing about using TSRM’s UAV integrity inspection services – we can inspect equipment without shutting down the worksite and without building costly access structures for equipment in higher areas. The video and infrared imaging are capable of obtaining very close-up shots of particular equipment in operation such as flare stack nozzles while hovering at a safe distance.

14. In what other ways does the SkyRanger help provide safety to your clients’ equipment and to the environment?

TSRM’s UAV integrity inspection services can be used for numerous other tasks such as site surveys, construction progress evidence, conveyor-belt integrity, and many more tasks.

15. Many people are concerned with the prevalence of drones and how that affects such things as air safety and privacy. TSRM is licensed by Transport Canada to conduct UAV flights in most Canadian provinces and territories, but do you think industry in general is acting responsibly in the rapidly increasing use of UAVs?

Licensed commercial companies such as TSRM follow all the regulated requirements for UAV use identified by Transport Canada. Our engineering and HSE staff are fully trained and certified in the safe operation of our UAVs as is required by Transport Canada. While almost anyone can learn how to fly a UAV in a relatively short period of
time, the analysis of the video and infrared imaging requires many years of expertise, and TSRM staff are all competent and qualified UAV pilots. Unfortunately, recreation flyers of drones/UAVs require no certification and can be a hazard to people and aircraft. Transport Canada may initiate regulations requiring recreation drone flyers to be licensed and trained.

16. Do you think there is an appropriate amount of regulation in the UAV industry?

We are very fortunate here in Canada. Transport Canada is very advanced in its regulatory requirements for UAV flights. I believe Transport Canada is considered a leader amongst flight regulatory agencies around the world.

17. Cleveland Indians professional baseball player and self-described nerd Trevor Bauer cut his finger recently while playing with his drone, an injury that saw him unable to perform his role as a starting pitcher in the American League Championship Series in October. Is there a significant safety risk from handling your fleet of UAVs?

Absolutely not. Stick to baseball, Trevor!

18. How would you describe your management/leadership style?

A great listener and a confident applier of what needs to be done. I have held numerous senior roles in projects with large numbers of staff, and I have always maintained a good rapport with staff and always listened to options before applying a particular action.

19. What is your vision for TSRM five years from now?

TSRM will have a very large fleet of UAVs with bases in numerous countries.

20. Are you glad that you chose to invest decades of your life in this industry. Is the term retirement in your vocabulary?

Yes, and I would not change my chosen career for anything. Retirement is not in my foreseeable future and certainly not something I contemplate.