In 2012, Joelle Charbonneau was putting her specialty in geographical information systems (GIS) to good use, logging drill core for Detour Gold as a geological technician and, as she puts it, loving life.
But Joelle’s secondary passion is workplace safety. And during a trip home to Timmins that year, when she popped into the family business, she sensed that more could be done to enhance the health and safety of the employees.
JTR & Custom Works, founded in 2007 by her father, Jean, a trained welder, had earned a reputation for quality work in painting and sandblasting, welding, concrete placement and repairs, and millwrighting.
But as Jean focused on building the business, hiring more employees in response to increasing demand for his services, workplace health and safety had taken a back seat.
So Joelle dove right in.
“I quit my job, and I jumped on board, and I started helping him with that,” she said. “We kind of grew into it together.”
Jean committed the finances and time to training employees, developing protocols, and purchasing new gear, while Joelle implemented the changes.
“Basically, I developed a safety program from nothing to where we’re at today,” said Joelle, who now serves as JTR’s operations manager.
“It was a long process, it took a lot of time, and a lot of trials and errors, but we’re there now.”
Today, the father-daughter team leads a crew of 18 to 25 people, picking up jobs across northeastern Ontario at mines, mills, power plants, wood mills, and more.
They’ve added confined space management to their services – providing assessments, rescuers and attendants, or training in confined space rescue – as well as policy development and training.
Joelle said they practise a “top-down” approach to safety, with management enforcing safety protocols to set an example for employees.
“We always ask people where they want to go, where they see themselves in three years and what goals do they have,” Joelle said. “We use their fire to our benefit, to keep people developing.”
In 2017, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) awarded JTR its inaugural Small Business Health and Safety Leadership Award – one of only three businesses in the province recognized that year.
With a dearth of skilled workers across the province, JTR regularly welcomes apprentices, training and supporting them through to their Red Seal accreditation, and Joelle frequently speaks at local high schools and colleges to discuss the opportunities for women in the trades.
The shop’s current complement includes four women welders among a crew of young, new workers.
“We know that there are huge risks that can be acquired when you’re just dealing with young workers, because those are the ones that are most prone to getting hurt, by statistics,” Joelle said.
“But we pride ourselves in providing them with proper guidance… and basically teaching them how to make good decisions.”
The Drift magazine features profiles on the people and companies making important contributions to the Northern Ontario mining service and supply sector. It is published annually and distributed at the Northern Ontario Mining Showcase during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in Toronto.