“We are in the business of helping companies with legislative compliance, regulation adherence, safety training, manufacturing and procuring client-specific equipment, procedure writing, auditing and consulting. It’s a pretty wide range of services. This stuff is a hugely important component of the industries in this country, and Canada’s safety records stack up with the best in the world because we are so serious about it.”
Duval calls himself a former “shaft man” and has his Class A miner designation, of which there are only about 350 in Canada. He has a mine rescue background and says one of his strong attributes is that he “understands the cycle and the exposures to hazards.”
“I saw fatalities and close-calls, and I looked for solutions and prevention (strategies). I consulted workers on what they felt was needed. So, I not only have experience, but I also do my homework. Companies trust me and my team, and they are glad to have us in there because we are the ones who identify job tasks in work sites, and we determine if it’s to be done in a confined space that is permit-required. If it is, then we write the special procedures, write a rescue plan and then do the training for the rescue teams.”
Duval has nine full-time employees and six part-timers who come on contract as needed. Included on his staff are a professional engineer, a sales representative, former plant managers and superintendents, and former health and safety directors, many of whom are old hands from Inco and Falconbridge days who come aboard as consultants to write policy and safety manuals.
Duval says the safety business became much more high-profile and in demand in the wake of the Westray Mine disaster in 1992 that saw 26 people killed in Nova Scotia. Demands for legislative protection for workers after that accident and the subsequent inquiry led to Bill C-45, the law that now makes it a criminal offence for employers not to take proper safety precautions for their workers.
“That amendment to the Criminal Code means managers and executives can go to jail for not providing safe workplaces, so everyone is extremely serious about it now,” said Duval.
One of ISM’s key projects right now involves work on the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory. Affectionately known as “SNOLAB,” it is the world’s deepest underground lab facility.
“We take care of all the raising and lowering of machinery at the SNOLAB. We also wrote the rescue policy according to government regulations, and we supply rescue teams and equipment. Right now, I’d say this is the most critical of our undertakings,” said Duval. “I believe we save lives and prevent injuries. Whether it’s at Vale or a CP Rail bridge like the one at International Falls, Minnesota, on the border with Fort Frances, Ontario, or the training and safety planning we do for the soldiers at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, it’s all about getting those guys who work in those places home safely at the end of the day.”
ISM opened an office in Wisconsin after 9/11when U.S. Homeland Security began cracking down on regular movement across the border.
“We have CP Rail and CN as clients, as well as Burlington Northern and other class 1 railways, and so it was made clear to us that if we wanted to go back and forth as often as we had been going, we needed to set up an operation down there, so we decided on a location just outside Green Bay. It’s a good location for us logistically. We have clients in the area, and it doesn’t hurt that I’m a Packers fan! Super Bowl Champs!” he declares with a laugh and a fist pump.
Like his favourite NFL team, Duval and his company seem to have found a formula for success. They are doing important work, getting good reviews and garnering respect from its client base.