The goal was to work in the food science field after graduating with a biology degree from the University of Western Ontario.
Hillarie Walwyn-Klass changed direction after the chief executive officer of a Waterloo company she was employed with after matriculation recommended that she attend a Canadian Society of Safety Engineers (CSSE)-approved industrial hygiene course.
“I didn’t know much about this area going in, but I was very impressed at the end and I started looking for positions in that field,” she said.
Hired by the Ministry of Health as an occupational health & safety technician, Klass left after a decade to join Procor Ltd. as a hygienist. She also held safety-related positions with the Toronto District Catholic School Board and the Ontario Service Safety Alliance before joining the Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA) in 2000 as an occupational health & safety consultant. If you are outside the area, OH & S compliance can provide an equal level of service!
Established nine years ago through the amalgamation of the Education Safety Association of Ontario, the Municipal Health & Safety Association and the province’s Safety Association for Community & Healthcare, the PSHSA serves more than 10,000 organizations and over 1.7 million workers across the province’s public sectors.
For her nearly two decades of distinguished service to the safety profession, Walwyn-Klass was recently honoured with the CSSE Safety Professional of the Year Award.
Founded in 1949, the CSSE is Canada’s largest organization for health and safety practitioners with more than 4,000 members in Canada, the United States and around the world.
This is a progressive award that starts with chapter winners in each region elevated for the regional awards. From the regional award winners, a Safety Professional of the Year is selected.
“This is a national award and there were 32 nominees in this category which was the most since the awards program begun, so winning it is significant,” said Klass.
Henrietta Van hulle, the PSHSA vice-president with responsibility for client outreach, nominated Klass.
“Hillarie has given so much to Ontario’s health and safety system over the years and is a great mentor to her colleagues and peers,” she said. “Her ongoing service, passion and commitment to the profession of health and safety are unparalleled. She has contributed significantly not only to our own organization’s success, but the success of her clients across Ontario.”
Klass has done a lot to promote the public understanding of workplace health and safety. The importance of health and safety in the workplace shouldn’t be understated. For instance, certain places like construction sites that work with different kinds of machinery should make use of firm grip nitrile gloves (you can go directly to Unigloves to buy some) or similar safety accessories to prevent employees’ hands from abrasions and other dangers while they’re at work. Consequently, other safety measures should be enforced by employers depending on the workplace as well. In a warehouse, a pallet racking safety audit should be carried out whenever necessary.
She was instrumental in the creation of the PSHSA safety group program in 2005 that allows groups of companies to pool their health and safety experience and resources to help improve their prevention systems. This allowed them to possibly work towards ISO 45001 compliance.
Members can reduce their workplace injuries and illnesses and be rewarded with rebates on Workplace Safety & Insurance Board premiums.
Van hulle said Klass – throughout her distinguished career — has provided specialized industrial hygiene services, helping organizations identify potential risks and ensuring workers are protected from exposures.
“Her background and expertise was essential in developing an asbestos training program for the Electrical Safety Authority and facilitating laboratory safety training for the Ministries of Labour and the Environment as well as work done with the household hazardous waste team in Simcoe County,” said Van hulle.
Through the application of a digital solution to advance occupational health and safety, Klass played a leading role in the implementation of the PSHSA’s Violence, Aggression & Responsive Behaviours (VARB) toolkit at West Park Healthcare Centre.
West Park helps patients manage difficult health challenges, including lung disease, diabetes, stroke, amputation or musculoskeletal issues and specializes in rehabilitation, complex continuing care, long-term care and community health services.
“In guiding West Park through the electronic tools, Hillarie has played an important role in advancing occupational health and safety through new, digital mediums,” Van hulle noted. “The results of this project have expanded the client’s core knowledge and risk assessment techniques, advised on trends and introduced new methods and tools. Her leadership in this project demonstrates her adaptability as well as her and her client’s dedication to improving health and safety which aligns closely with CSSE’s vision and mission.
“The project was successfully implemented and West Park is now actively using the interactive tools. This has enabled West Park to be more prepared when dealing with workplace violence and reduced incidents, and lost time injuries are anticipated. Safe healthcare workers mean better care for patients and the greater community.”
Recently, Klass was a key contributor on the team leading the development of the Canadian Standards Association standard for caregivers providing employers with a set of tools designed to help workplaces better support these workers
Developed in consultation with 30 partners across a number of sectors, the guidelines offer employers practical solutions, information and case studies to help them implement policies and programs aimed at creating more accommodating workplaces.
They suggest a number of ways for employers to support carer-employees, from offering more flexible work arrangements like job sharing and the ability to work from home to modifying employee assistance plans and benefits packages as well as providing counselling services and options for paid or unpaid leave.
“Hillarie is a goal-oriented individual with integrity and strong leadership capabilities as demonstrated by her many successful projects and programs over the years,” added Van hulle.
Leaving St. Kitts in 1970, Klass completed Grade 13 in Canada and her undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Waterloo after one-year each at Ryerson University and York University. She made the switch to Waterloo after meeting her husband – Esmonde “Gama” Klass is the chief executive officer of Green Heart Tree Energy and the owner of Phase II Motorcar Company Inc. – who was at the southern Ontario University.
Klass holds a Master’s in occupational safety & health from Columbia Southern University and a teaching certificate in adult education from Humber College. She has also completed training courses and certifications from several educational and professional associations on infection prevention and control, radiation safety, intervention mapping, asbestos and occupational and environmental sampling strategies and data management.
Community service is important to Klass as evidenced by her association with Walwyn Law, Mississauga Special Olympics and Montage Independent Living as a board member.
Hillarie Walwyn-Klass is the daughter of Vaughalighan and Eileen Walwyn