Piling Canada

Learning on the Job

Calgary's Matthew Paswisty, who joined the piling industry fresh out of high school, says his 13 years of deep foundation work has been quite the education
Written by Mark Halsall
September 2018

Calgary’s Matthew Paswisty, who joined the piling industry fresh out of high school, says his 13 years of deep foundation work has been quite the education

By Mark Halsall

Matthew Paswisty knows it pays to be versatile. He’s only in his early 30s,

but he’s already packed a lot of different experiences into his 13 years in the deep foundations industry.

Paswisty began his piling career right out of high school in 2005, starting as a swamper and then taking on other jobs such as a driller’s assistant and machine operator for a heavy construction company in Calgary, Alta.

In 2011, he began working as a lead hand for a deep foundations firm working in the Fort McMurray area in northeastern Alberta and he eventually became a drill rig operator. Since the Fort Mac oil patch in 2014, Paswisty has continued to expand his heavy equipment skills, operating many of the top machines on the market and adding pile driving operator to his CV.

Paswisty says he’s always tried to learn as much as he can on the jobsite, no matter what he’s doing. “I think it’s important not to be scared to learn about different aspects of piling and running equipment,” he said. “It will benefit you.”

He believes the piling industry would benefit from more training and certification opportunities for heavy equipment operators like himself, but he’s encouraged that things seem to be moving in that direction.

The first drilling rig run by Paswisty was a Soilmec SR 30. Since then, he’s moved on to bigger Soilmec machines all the way up to the SR 90.

“They’re one of my favourites because that’s what I learned on and they’re very dynamic rigs,” said Paswisty.

He also has a soft spot for Bauer Pileco’s BG line of drilling rigs. “The BG 28 is the most stable machine I’ve ever run. It’s a workhorse,” he said.

Paswisty has also run Liebherr, Yutong and Casagrande drilling rigs as well as a Junttan PM22 pile driving rig.

In addition to his extensive operating experience, Paswisty has worked on many different piling applications, ranging from pipe and H-beam driven piles to drilled piles up to 1,800 millimetres in diameter with conventional casing and 1,500-millimetre piles with segmental casing and oscillators at 30-plus metres in depth. His other applications include:

Cast-in-place concrete piling

Cased secant piling

Continuous flight auguring piling

Conventional and segmental casing piling

Belled piles

When he’s not operating piling rigs on jobsites, Paswisty is always ready to lend a hand with other work when needed.

“That’s just how it is with the industry. You can’t really expect to be doing just one thing because if you do, you are not going to stay busy,” he said.

“You have to be willing to do everything, whether its pile driving or running loader or whatever. If you are staying busy, you’re usually doing a little bit of everything.”

Safety paramount

Paswisty maintains safety is paramount on any construction site, and he knows he’s fortunate to have worked with companies that maintain high safety standards.

“They look at your credentials and they check in with people that you’ve previously worked with,” he said. “If they hear about something unsafe, it goes around very quickly in this industry.”

Paswisty says his favorite thing about his industry is all the engineering involved in piling and foundation construction.

“If it wasn’t for us drillers and pile drivers and others like civil engineers and even pile inspectors, you wouldn’t have the all the high-rise buildings that you see downtown or the bridges you see intersecting the highways,” he said.

He takes a lot of pride in the structures he helps build and he also loves taking on the challenges that come with piling jobs, such as unforeseen issues with demanding ground conditions or unwanted water.

“It’s amazing to be able to work through these issues,” he said. “When problems come up, there’s always a way around it.”

Paswisty believes that learning to overcome issues is actually great on-the-job training for piling workers like himself. “You won’t really get very far if you don’t have those challenges to keep you on your toes,” he said.

He recalls that one of his toughest jobs was drilling rock socket piles for a CN Rail line overpass over Pembina Highway in Winnipeg in 2017.

“Man, that was some of the hardest rock I’ve ever drilled in, and the water just seemed to come in from everywhere,” he said, adding that high-powered pumps were required to keep the water out and allow cameras to be sent down for socket inspection.

Paswisty has fond memories of working in Fort McMurray for numerous projects in the Athabasca oil sands. “In Fort Mac, there are a lot of good guys out there,” he said. “You get to meet people from all around the world.”

He says the pay was great as well, and he enjoyed being able to travel to Calgary to see family during 10-day breaks in-between his 20-day work shifts.

Paswisty, who has an eight-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter, has travelled a lot during his time in the piling industry and says he’s thankful to be back working in his home city. Paswisty is currently working for HCM Contractors Inc., driving pipe and batter piles as well as performing shoring, test pile and caisson jobs around Calgary.

“I’m fortunate that with the company I’m now with, I can stay in Calgary and it’s great for family,” he said. 🍁

Category: Education

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