Jon Travis and Yevgen Yevsyeyev, former electrical engineers with PotashCorp, responded to the 2016 Picadilly mine closure by launching their own business, Leaf Electrical Safety. The entrepreneurs are now leveraging their years of expertise in electrical safety to give workers in multiple industries safer work environments.
Within its first year of operation the company found clients in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and are in talks with companies as far away as Saskatchewan.
Jon Travis spoke to ONB about establishing a company in New Brunswick, what industry leaders should know about electrical safety and their business, and more.
ONB: First tell us a bit more about what you offer.
Travis: A decade ago, the CSA Group created a new standard for workplace electrical safety, CSA Z462. You have two major hazards: electrical shock and arc flash, the latter being a type of electrical explosion. We help industry guard against both hazards by ensuring they’re in-line with Z462. We’re seeing early success with major industries; mining, pulp & paper, food processing, chemical and manufacturing plants; companies with large electrical systems and many electrical workers on-site. Our work is also relevant to electrical contractors, people that don’t have a set day-to-day but are still faced with those hazards.
ONB: It’s encouraging to see entrepreneurs rise in the wake of news like the mine closure.
Travis: I started with PotashCorp around the time the new standard was released. One of the first things I was asked was how much I knew about arc flash. I knew nothing; it wasn’t something we learned in university. I was told a new standard was out and the company wanted me to lead an electrical safety program and the training around it. Looking back I realize the timing was perfect. I spent a lot of time researching the standard, becoming an expert in something many people had little knowledge of. We built the company’s safety program right here in New Brunswick and it was adopted company-wide by PotashCorp. Yevgen and I decided to take the knowledge we amassed during our PotashCorp tenure and start a business. Nobody in the region seemed to be offering what we are, so our training has well received thus far. We don’t need to stop at Canada either. There is an equivalent standard in the U.S. [NFPA 70E] that was developed at the same time. A couple of minor tweaks and our offerings apply to the U.S. as well.
ONB: Let’s talk common mistakes you see in the field. What should business leaders be more aware of?
Travis: The most common problem we find involves working on energized equipment. There are still a lot of tasks being performing on energized equipment unnecessarily; it’s been like that for years and it’s often not second guessed. When you look into it, however, you find there’s usually no need for equipment to be energized in these instances. People are taking unnecessary risks. That’s the most common mistake we see.
Many companies don’t realize the standard notes they need a program in place. We help with that by assessing what’s going on at a facility and what policies and procedures are in place, if any. We then help build a program and train staff. Also, there are still too many leaders that don’t think of safety as a money saver, they see it as a cost of doing business. They need to think of safety programs like insurance; you’ll be glad you invested in it in order to save yourself even more money down the road. That’s on top of saving lives of course.
ONB: What’s been the biggest challenge getting the company off the ground?
Travis: Getting our name out there and getting in front of the right people. You call some and ask how their electrical safety program is and they say it’s fine, but it turns out they don’t really have an electrical safety program. They either didn’t know what you were talking about or you weren’t talking to the right person. It’s finding the right person who understands the importance of safety, wants to do something about it, and has the authority to move.
ONB: What’s your experience been like in NB’s entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Travis: We’re excited to be working with Vennture Garage to get our training courses online, which we expect finalized by April. Things are promising here in NB in terms of mentorship and support; that’s the biggest thing with any of these groups. Even simply hanging around places like ConnexionWorks helps you meet good people that can help.
We’ve also engaged with ONB’s Business Development team. Your organization has already helped open doors for us; there’s more resources for entrepreneurs here than many people realize. That’s where ONB’s early guidance has been really helpful. Good mentors help you make better decisions and make those decisions quicker. If you have to do everything the hard way, and make all your own mistakes along the way, you’re costing yourself a ton of time and money.
Want to learn more about establishing or growing your business in New Brunswick? Connect with an ONB Business Development Executive at the button below.
Images via Leaf Electrical Safety