Blog - The Raven Speaks

Tower Client Spotlight: Total North

From their inception in 1972, Total North has played an integral role in the supply and support of communications systems in western and northern Canada.  They describe their journey in the industry well:

"Forty years ago, integrating a radio company with a helicopter company to connect remote workers was our cutting edge technology. Today, it’s building fibre optic networks that connect northern communities to the world. Tomorrow, something new will emerge to change the communications landscape."

How does a company as forward-thinking as Total North ensure that their training requirements meet and exceed the industry's health and safety standards?  The team at Total North is firm about their stance.  "COR Certified since 2012, the prevention of injuries continues to be our goal above all else," states Total North. "When it comes to safety training, we train employees based on the principle that everyone gets home safe."

Tower climbing and rescue training is a key componenet of maintaining Total North's industry-leading safety goals.  Raven Rescue instructor Jason Wolsky has had the privilege of training Total North tower workers based in Whitehorse, particularly focusing on the challenges they face as they work in remote northwestern environments. The photos in this article are from one of these courses.  

We spoke with Dan Johnson, President at Total North, to learn more about the tower workers at Total North.


Q: In what kind of environment do your workers do their jobs?

Our work mostly occurs in remote locations, so the challenges are preparedness, safety and communication.  Accidents in remote locations are a different animal.  Of course, the weather plays a big role as well - living in the north requires sometimes working in cold conditions.  Being prepared and having a plan for that is critical!  

Q: What makes a quality tower worker at Total North?

Our workers are trained for production and efficiency.  This means knowing your knots, rigging techniques, and overall safety strategies. Knowing the various ways to assist injured climbers is best achieved by ensuring that all our climbers are Tower Competent Climber And Rescue certified.  

Only hours on the towers will improve their craft, especially rigging techniques.

Q: What changes have you seen within the tower climbing industry in recent years?

We have moved away from free climbing to the top of towers and then attaching your work positioning belt.  Now we have multiple points of contact and methodology for rescues.  We now have scheduled gear inspections and tail gate meetings, none of which was present 12-15 years ago.  

Q: What is one skill taught during your Raven course that has changed how Total North workers do their jobs?

The biggest thing was getting the hands-on experience to do rescues, and practicing various rescue strategies.  Most importantly, this included the new gear needed and utilized in these techniques.




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Brad Danielson, Geoscientist
University of Alberta

Our instructor was excellent. He obviously knew the material inside-and-out, and could run the class as a set of discussions and ongoing hands-on examples, vs. running off a set of powerpoint slides. He's a breathing encyclopedia of Wilderness First Aid, with a lot of first-hand field experience. Raven Rescue has the "wilderness" perspective of First Aid training really dialed in. This did not feel like Standard FA with wilderness considerations thrown in as an add-on - these guys understand and take seriously the type of remote field work that we geo-scientist types do in places like the northern territories.


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