Eye on lives
Helen Baryluak will tell you, “I may have lost my sight, but I haven’t lost my vision.” Helen Baryluak is legally blind. She holds in her mind’s eye workplaces free of injury, illness and death.
A Workers Health and Safety Centre-trained instructor since 1989, Baryluak says, “Education is the key that can unlock many doors. It can help to drastically reduce worker suffering.”
Diagnosed with a rare disease that took her eyesight in 1995, Baryluak has not slowed down in her determination to educate others about health and safety. Armed with a device known as a closed circuit television (CCTV) — a type of high tech microfiche that magnifies print — Baryluak has recently completed the development of a three-day program on recent amendments to the
Canada Labour Code Part II
A former postal clerk and member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) London Local 566, Baryluak has been a health and safety activist for over 20 years.
Baryluak first became interested in health and safety when she signed up to be a First Aid volunteer in the mail processing plant where she worked. After completing training Baryluak developed a First Aid survey for the plant. To her dismay Baryluak discovered that the plant was sorely lacking in First Aid supplies. “I had more supplies in my locker than there was in the entire plant.” Working with her joint health and safety committee (JHSC) Baryluak soon rectified the situation.
This action prompted Baryluak’s union to elect her to the JHSC on which she served for 10 years. She also sat on CUPW’s national health and safety committee representing her region. Now she acts as an ad hoc advisor to her union at all levels, particularly in matters dealing with asbestos.
Baryluak credits a good deal of her success to training gained from the Workers Centre. “After taking the Centre’s Level I Program
I went from having a mild interest in health and safety to having a full-blown passion for it. Of course my detractors called it fanaticism.”
Whether it was ‘passion’ or ‘fanaticism’ guiding her, shortly after the Level I Program
Baryluak returned to her workplace where she helped to develop effective terms of reference for the joint committee.
Although she is no longer working at Canada Post, Baryluak continues to assist her co-workers and union by developing health and safety material that is contexted to their specific needs. Her recent contributions though, are not limited to co-workers.
Says Elaine McMurray, CUPW’s Ontario region education and organizational officer, “Helen is a great asset not only to our union, but also to her community. In fact, after suffering for 10 years from occupationally-related chronic tendonitis, she co-authored a terrific book on repetitive strain injuries with the London Occupational Safety and Health Information Service.”
Entitled, When Aches Become Injuries,
the book and the work she has done for her fellow CUPW members garnered her an honorary mention at the first Tim Hickman Awards ceremony in 1998. This ceremony, which recognizes achievements in health and safety, takes place each year in London, Ontario. McMurray adds, “No one is more deserving of recognition than Helen.