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A night to celebrate safety

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From safety in the cockpit, to a vicar’s viewpoint on stress, the 60th International Safety Awards Gala Dinner on 27 April featured a stimulating and varied line up of speakers.


Compering was Reverend Richard Coles, Radio 4 broadcaster and ex-pop star. While delivering his welcome address with warmth and humour, he recalled risky but heady times as a performer in the Communards, the ‘80s pop group that achieved a number 1 hit. “The record industry was awash with money in those days. I did the crash and burn and went to all sorts of interesting and dark places,” he said, joking about an ear infection after getting his ears pierced.

But he was serious about the importance of intervening on early signs of stress and mental ill health before problems worsen. As vicar for Finedon in Northamptonshire, he assured: “People come to my door when it gets too much. I know about it.”

Mike Robinson, chief executive of the British Safety Council, speaking before the awards ceremony was underway, reminded us that the night was a time to let go and enjoy successes made in safety. “Achieving our vision that no one is injured or made ill through work requires more than just legislation, it requires people to be inspired. For people to be inspired they need to be engaged, and celebrating success is one of the very best ways to be engaging.”

'People come to my door when it gets too much': Reverend Richard Coles at the ISAs

Showing just how much awards mean to the individuals who win them, Aracceli Carqueijo, winner of the Young Health and Safety Champion award for her role as trainee project manager at Overbury Northern, gave a moving impromptu acceptance speech. Thanking her employers and her parents for their support, she was greeted with loud applause from the delighted audience.

From the safety of the elegant Grosvenor House hotel, keynote speaker Mark Bowman took to the stage and took the audience into the extreme environment of fast-jet flying. As a young test pilot during the Gulf War in the 90s and then later in the Middle East campaigns, risk simply could not be eliminated or reduced. “[Safety] regulations could severely blunt the teeth of the country’s ability to defend itself,” he said, recalling how it would be normal for pilots to fly with a cold, risking a perforated eardrum while sitting three feet from a noisy Rolls Royce engine.

His vast experience includes being the current director of flight operations at BAE Systems, and it was fascinating to hear of aviation’s rapidly changing risks. With the rise in automation making flying too ‘easy’, the challenge is tempting new pilots into the industry. “Pilots frankly get a bit bored up front. Today’s youngsters don’t find flying exciting anymore. We need stimulation to take the strain and maintain the safety,” he said.

Guests danced to the All Stars band, celebrating safety in style and fun

Lawrence Waterman OBE, giving his first address at the Gala Dinner as the British Safety Council’s new chair of trustees, delivered words of encouragement. He told the audience that health and safety was about ‘positivity’, not compliance, the night being a recognition of what health and safety can do: “You should be proud because you’re making sure people are going home safe and healthy. What a fantastic achievement!” he enthused.

In the awards ceremony that followed (see press release for full details of the winners), winner of the new Award for Employee Wellbeing Initiative went to Loughborough University for their mental health and stress management programme for students and staff. James Stapleton, deputy head of health, safety and risk management told Safety Management: “We’re simply over the moon to have won the best Wellbeing Initiative Award.

“What we tried to do was to make the most of the amazing academics and facilities on our campus in tackling health and particularly mental health.”

He explained how artists, sports psychologists, HR professionals and chaplains had all been involved in developing an end to end approach.

“We’ve seen mental health move from a taboo subject to something that is talked about and become a subject which management teams are willing to tackle,” he said.

Mates in Mind gave out the brand new Mates in Mind impact awards to two winners and two highly commended organisations for helping to tackle mental ill health in construction. Steve Hails, director of health, safety and wellbeing at Thames Tideway Tunnel, praised their efforts saying: “Together, we are helping to change not only attitudes but, importantly, behaviours that build more inclusive workforces and communities.”

By the end of the night, guests danced to the vibrant All Stars band, celebrating safety in style and fun.

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