Mine exploration companies that have zeroed in on Northern Ontario for its critical mineral abundance have turned Thunder Bay into a hub for the northern mining sector with many area businesses now contributing to the industry. One of these businesses is Northstream Safety and Rehab which provides essential testing for workers to ensure the safety of everyone at the mine sites.
Donna Nordstrom, Northstream president and CEO, says the women-run firm began in 2016 as a rehabilitation company.
“We quickly saw the need for pre-employment services,” said Nordstrom. “That type of testing really outweighed the rehab assessments we were doing. It really took off so we pivoted and went in that direction. My philosophy was to take the equipment mobile, so everything we’ve purchased since is equally as efficient on the go as it is in the office or clinic setting. When COVID came along, we pivoted there and now we’re back to building a stronger network across North America for the screening of employees.”
Nordstrom says remote locations are their specialty with 13 testing locations across Northwestern Ontario and two full office/clinic locations in Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie.
Bella Pires, office manager for Northstream, says they have professionally trained and certified staff working with a Canada/U.S.-wide network that provides pre-employment occupational tests, fitness testing, drug and alcohol testing programs, test protocols and mobile testing 24/7.
“There are (about) 38 up-and-coming mines in Northwestern Ontario and that’s a lot of jobs and a lot of employment opportunities for people,” Pires said. “Our job is to make sure that they’re safe when they go out into the workforce and have that pre-employment testing done because there’s a baseline for all these guys that are going out getting these amazing jobs.”
Pires said the Northstream company has exponentially expanded to meet the growing requests for testing.
“We go into a lot smaller regions with locations in Marathon, Wawa, Geraldton, Dryden and we’re popping up all over the place because that’s where the mines are and that’s where they need us,” she said.
As part of its expansion, Northstream is now offering chest X-rays on-site.
“We have a portable X-ray machine that we take to the mine sites and do all the testing right there. It’s great for the mines because they can schedule everybody in all at once,” she said. “And it’s less of an impact on the hospital system and in the private sector. We can just go right to the mines, get (the x-rays) done for them, and everybody’s safe and sound when they start work.”
Pires pointed, out that they also provide spirometry and audiology testing, and mask-fit tests.
“We’ll test essentially anything to make sure that there’s some data and some information on you when you go into the workplace. And if there’s anything going on, we flag it so the individual can get some help before it becomes significant,” she said, adding we also do drug and alcohol testing for pre-access clearance for contract employees.
“When employees come to the Northstream site, a pre-employment drug and alcohol test is done and uploaded to a secure site to ensure all that information goes to the right people and the employee is allowed on site.”
Nordstrom says the speed at which they can get people in and tested has earned them the recognition of being the fastest in the industry for getting pre-employment tests done no matter if they have to arrange them in Alaska, Newfoundland or Texas.
“We are very aware that each day an employee is delayed it costs the company money, so it’s at the top of mind always,” she said.
“To make this happen efficiently takes a whole team, and I’m so proud of all of them.”