All Stories

Celebrating Safety with Cheryl Dulay

Alongside the problem solvers, wonder seekers and world changers we endearingly call nerds, we’re sharing stories of essential workers: the smart, driven, compassionate people who make up the fabric of our neighbourhood.

The pandemic outbreak—and all its unknowns—made Cheryl Dulay's job as a Prevention Officer in Occupational Safety for WorkSafeBC much more complicated and difficult.

In the first 3 months of the outbreak, she and her 300 fellow officers helped implement over 14,000 COVID-19 Safety Plans, a number Cheryl says is astonishing. They adapted protocols almost daily to reflect updates from public health officials.

Meanwhile, the other aspects of her job continued: “On top of all that, people were still getting hurt on the job. People were still at risk of being seriously injured. It was really hard.”

“Of course, we’ve always known we’re an essential service,” she says. “But that might not have been apparent to others.”

One Too Many

Cheryl's commitment to job safety is personal.

Both her parents sustained workplace injuries that left them with lifelong conditions. Her father lost his sense of a smell and taste from chemicals at a pickling plant. And her mother, a nurse, sustained both a muscular-skeletal injury and a multi-chemical sensitivity caused by what they now believe to be a disinfectant she worked with.

Fuelled by her passion for chemistry, Cheryl completed her bachelor’s degree on the subject and observed her parents’ conditions over time. She investigated both what caused them and how they could have been prevented.

Today, thanks to occupational health regulations, the disinfectant her mother worked with is known as a sensitizer. This means employees use it very minimally and only with the most stringent controls in place—preventative measures that would have protected Cheryl’s mother.

“On a job site, people ask me, ‘But how likely is this to happen? And how many times is too many?’

“The answer is one. One is too many. You go to work so you can live a good life. You don’t go to work to not come back the way you went.”

Unprecedented Change

Between rising cases and more stringent protocols, Cheryl is grateful for the foresight of her employer, who she says has safety measures in place to support her physical and mental wellbeing.

“There’s been a lot of compassion that has come from the pandemic," she says, recalling a recent wrong number from a stranger that ended in a heartfelt exchange of well wishes for safety and health.

That same compassion shows up in her own role at WorkSafeBC when she visits job sites with folks who are anxious to be there. “I know the feeling. We’re in this together.”

To experience joy during these hard times, Cheryl takes advantage of BC Parks' new Day Pass program and returns to her favourite hikes on the weekends, such as the Sea to Sky Summit and Dog Mountain Trail.

She also delights in Science World’s new campaign, The World Needs More Nerds. “It was glorious when I saw Dr. Bonnie Henry’s picture. I saw myself as a kid. I had the glasses and the bangs. I looked like an Asian Dora the Explorer!”

Cheryl nerds out every day by entertaining her family with continuous anecdotes selected from her vast chemical knowledge, such as: why perfume smells a certain way (ketones!); why fire burns a certain colour (electrons!); why metal rusts (oxidation!); and why the oil in their salad dressing floats (density!).

“My kids say, ‘Mom, you’re such a nerd.’ And I say, ‘Absolutely I am!’”

The world needs more people like Cheryl.

As we call on our local community to fund the future, we’re sharing the personal narratives of the heroes who keep us safe. Please donate today, so Science World can be here for the next generation of people who care about science.