Spotlight on CSSE Members
Growing up on a farm in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, CSSE Durham East chapter member Lisa Hallsworth never imagined she would end up living and working halfway across the country in occupational health and safety.
“In school, I did okay in science and mathematics. And so one of my physics teachers recommended I try engineering. I didn't really know what engineering was, but I thought, sure, I'll give it a try.” Lisa ended up studying chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo, which had a co-op program for its students. “So every four months you’re going off to some new place to try different types of engineering. It was pretty awesome.”
When she graduated, Lisa started working for Petro Canada in Oakville as a process engineer in refining. After three years in the city, she and her husband made the move east to Belleville, where she began working for DuPont Canada in Kingston.
It was her experience working with a wide variety of hazardous chemicals at Petro Canada and DuPont, plus going through two pregnancies, that spurred her to educate herself about the chemicals that were pervasive in her — and many others’ — workplaces.
“I realized that it’s not easy for a chemical engineer — let alone the average person — to understand the hazards associated with the hundreds of chemicals that are present in so many workplaces. The 1988 version of the WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) MSDSs didn’t do a great job of identifying health hazards like reproductive toxicants and carcinogens. And so I thought, how do people do this?”
In 2015, Lisa left DuPont. The next year, she founded Rillea Technologies, along with her husband Rob. The company created a cloud-based software system, SDS RiskAssist. The software digitizes the new 2015 version of WHMIS safety data sheets, which do a much better job of identifying health hazards, and automatically extracts, cross-references, organizes, and flags crucial chemical hazard information.
Although Lisa has worked with a wide variety of clients in both the public and private sectors, a couple of projects stand out as being particularly gratifying. “One of our clients is a college. They didn’t realize some of the hazards they were handling. And once they began using our software, they eliminated 300 products from the campus. And that’s super gratifying, because it’s preventing a potential incident with young people, who trust their institution to keep them safe.”
Over her career, Lisa has been grateful for the networking and education opportunities she’s found at CSSE as it has supported her career. “When I left chemical manufacturing and embarked on this journey, it was hard to find people like me. And so I joined the CSSE and thought, oh my goodness, it's my peeps! Finally! I really appreciate being part of the organization, and the Durham East chapter has given me great opportunities to network with people in all kinds of organizations.”