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January 29, 2015

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CPD – Lessons from IOSH

DSC_2080To mark IOSH’s 70th anniversary, serving president Ian Harper met one of his presidential predecessors, and longest serving IOSH members, Stan Barnes to learn lessons for the future from IOSH’s past. Bryan Henesey reports on the meeting.

When 58 people attended the first meeting of the Industrial Safety Officers’ Section (ISOS) of RoSPA, in London on 21 April 1945, few would have thought it would go on to become the world’s largest professional health and safety organisation. But after seven decades of growth and evolution, that is where IOSH finds itself today.

One man who has witnessed much of its development in that time is Stan Barnes, who became a member in 1954. The year before he joined, RoSPA had ratified and given its blessing for ISOS to break away and form the Institution of Industrial Safety Officers (IISO).

Stan’s dedication to the profession and the organisation led him to become president in 1978/79, shortly before IISO merged with the Institute of Municipal Safety Officers (IMSO) to form IOSH.

Fast-forward to the present day and Stan, now aged 84, has been in the presence of every one of IOSH’s presidents in its 70-year history. He told the role’s latest incumbent, Ian Harper, his memories of safety and health over the years and the challenges that the profession faces going forward into the future.

Stan Barnes (SB): When I was growing up my father was a skilled pattern maker at Staveley Iron and Chemical Co. Ltd, near Chesterfield. I can remember when I was a nine-year-old lad, him taking me down to the ironworks and showing me the foundries and casting pits. It was a revelation because you had to be so careful where you went, and it made a big impression on me. When I was 21, I came out of the army after two years’ national service and I heard they wanted an assistant safety officer at the ironworks. I applied and amazingly, with absolutely no knowledge at all, I got it.

Ian Harper (IH): Was there an actual role then for occupational health and safety? What drew you to it, and how was the role perceived by people back then?

SB: I was straight away on a learning curve. I was a novice, even worse than that. I knew nothing about the work of occupational health and safety. It was not a recognised profession but giving those early safety officers credit, they knew they had got to create a profession. They were trailblazers, no question about it. The prime industries that began to give OSH its early credibility were the chemical industry, the iron and steel industry, and also the big utilities. In the early days it was in many ways a cosy brotherhood. There weren’t that many of us.

At this point, Stan recalled his IOSH membership number – 707. By the time Ian himself joined IOSH 15 years ago, his membership number stood at 39,095. Membership within IOSH currently exceeds 44,000 people, spread across over 120 countries worldwide. Yet in 1945, ISOS started with only 196 members.


IOSH president Ian Harper and Stan Barnes inspect past chains of office

IH: At the start the North West, London, Midland and Sheffield branches were the four cornerstones of IOSH. What can you tell me about the early days?

SB: RoSPA was key to the development of the institution in its early days, no question about it. Some of the people who originally worked within the institution were RoSPA people. When I joined, one of first things I asked was where could I get some training as I knew I needed it, but all there was for a guy like me was a two-week industrial safety course run by RoSPA. The emphasis was on safety, not so much health. This came later.

IH: What was the institution’s role at the time?

SB: In those days we didn’t have the same clout that we have today, but we built it up. The chemical and electrical industries figured strongly in the early presidential years. The nature of these industries required a very high quality of health and safety. It was they who tried to share their knowledge through the institution. The Sheffield branch, for example, was very good at producing codes of practice long before it became the tradition.

IH: So we were the founders of providing information. Is that because there was a gap?

SB: There was nothing right in the beginning so we had to create it. In the steel or ironworks there was so much danger. You tried to develop procedures and it was quite traumatic for the safety officers in those days. For example, back then there were no proper lockout procedures for electrical equipment, outside the electrical industry. I remember we had one man killed – his name was Green and he was only 24. He was working on the bus-bars in the workshops and his mate was on the isolator. There was a misunderstanding between them and the mate energised the bars, which Green had his hands on, and he was electrocuted. That’s the sort of thing that should never, ever happen today.

That final statement highlighted the positive impact that regulations and legislation has had on workplace safety, none more so than the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, with the Health and Safety Executive marking its 40th anniversary this year.

SB: The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 really was the catalyst for the development of occupational health and safety in this country, beyond any shadow of a doubt. There was a great deal going on before but everything expanded and grew from it. Courses expanded, degree courses expanded, it all seemed to burgeon after that.

IH: Are we at a point now where perhaps we’ve got safety for safety’s sake and we’ve gone too far?

SB: I’m not sure we can be as simplistic as that as in my lifetime everything has changed, literally from steam to the huge information technology era of today. I feel outside the occupational safety profession, however, that yes, things may have gone too far.

IH: So maybe externally, the big wide world has lost sight of what is dangerous and needs addressing. Is that where IOSH fits in?

SB: We hold the balance of what’s important and less important. If we fail in that, then we have failed.

Stan and Ian’s attention turned to the collection of past IISO, IMSO and IOSH chains of office spread out before them. They quickly started discussing the period leading up to Stan’s own year as IISO president. In 1978, the institution faced the task of overcoming financial and administration problems.

SB: For me, the two years preceding my presidency were critical. There wasn’t an executive at the time like now, just a secretary. Mike Totterdell, who was second vice president at the time, and I were authorised to advertise for an assistant secretary and appointed John Barrell, who went on to become secretary.

Without a shadow of a doubt, appointing him was the finest achievement of my time in the presidential team. He changed things with tremendous professionalism and really pulled everything together. He laid the foundations of the executive and the institution as we know it today. When I was president, we were in a way still an embryonic institution. We were growing and there were some real growing pains at the time with the merger of IMSO and IISO being talked about. That was a difficult period and a time where all of us needed immense tact. IMSO was quite a growing force and IISO wanted to draw other organisations in. We wanted to speak with one voice. I can remember being invited to IMSO’s conference at Keele University in 1979 and the whole tenor of what I said was about this need, not for IISO to dominate, but for the two to come together as one.

IH: I think that’s something I’ve got a lot of resonance with, especially with going abroad on presidential duties. IOSH definitely sees organisations such as the ASSE as geographical partners, with us all working together to the same aim.

That aim is to create a safer world of work, where organisations have safety and health at their heart. IOSH believes that more and more forward thinking organisations are investing in a culture of care, and are experiencing improved reputation, resilience and results as a consequence. With IOSH’s 70th anniversary in mind, the pair debated where it had come from, and what the future holds for both IOSH and occupational safety.

IH: Having met and been in the presence of so many IOSH presidents, who stands out for you?

SB: In my view our greatest president was Lawrence Corney between 1959 and 1963. He was outstanding. Lawrence was a highly intelligent man, very sincere, and knew where he was going and where he felt the institution had to go. He was the architect of us becoming a company limited by guarantee, but also saw beyond that to a Royal Charter (which IOSH was granted in 2002). Lawrence Corney brought everything to a head.

IH: What advice would you have for me as to what makes a good president?

SB: You have, as we all have, special qualities. To thy own self be true, know yourself and your strengths but also be aware of your weaknesses. I had to follow, and did follow, the pattern of previous presidents. I think that is one of the reasons why IOSH’s history can be a humbling knowledge. You realise for a large part of your time you are a fly on the wall, and then you come into a more prominent position for a period of time where you are actually standing on other people’s shoulders and developing what they have done before. They probably haven’t seen the culmination of their work but you will see the culmination of other people’s work in your presidency.

IH: So you are only ever a custodian of previous people’s work and efforts, as I am of yours. Some people are concerned about the size of IOSH now, are we too big?

SB: If we believe in occupational safety and health, we need the size to be able to talk to governments and organisations like the ASSE, to create a worldwide presence which we have very largely done in many ways already.

IH: Are there any achievements over the past 70 years that you are particularly proud of?

SB: The biggest contribution that we have made has been our contribution to consultations and regulations on a national and international scene. It’s getting the messages out there. I’m not a visionary and I’m not in any sort of position now to see how IOSH will develop, except that it’s already recognised worldwide, and on that achievement I think we can build a great deal more achievement. It is essential also that we continue to have our say in the political arena.

During its 70th anniversary year, IOSH wants to showcase the finest examples of OSH in action, both in the UK and overseas. If you think you have got a story to tell, email details to Bryan Henesey at bryan.henesey@

Bryan Henesey is IOSH media officer


CPD Spotlight

Continuing professional development is the process by which OSH practitioners maintain, develop and improve their skills and knowledge. IOSH CPD is very flexible in its approach to the ways in which CPD can be accrued, and one way is by reflecting on what you have learnt from the information you receive in your professional magazine. By answering the questions below, practitioners can award themselves credits. One, two or three credits can be awarded, depending on what has been learnt – exactly how many you award yourself is up to you, once you have reflected and taken part in the quiz.

There are ten questions in all, and the answers can be found at the end of this article. To learn more about CPD and the IOSH approach, visit

Please note: It is important to point out to readers that there may well be more than one correct answer to a question, and that further reading may be required to correctly answer the questions.

  1. It was reported that 58 people attended a meeting of which body on the 21st April 1945?
    a) The Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
    b) The Industrial Safety Officers Section (ISOS) of RoSPA
    c) The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)
    d) The International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM)
  1. It was reported that in the early days of IOSH, the branches that played a leading role were:
    a) The North West, London, Midland and Sheffield branches
    b) The London, Scotland and Ireland branches
    c) The Midland, Scotland and Middle East branches
    d) Only the Midland and London branches
  1. What other body is celebrating an anniversary in 2015?
    a) The Houses of Parliament
    b) The British Safety Council
    c) The Health and Safety Executive
    d) The British Standards Institute
  1. In 1945, ISOS had how many members?
    a) 525
    b) 251
    c) 749
    d) 196
  1. ISOS broke away from RoSPA to form the Institution of Industrial Safety Officers (IISO) in what decade?
    a) 1940s
    b) 1950s
    c) 1960s
    d) 1970s
  1. IISO merged with what body to form IOSH?
    a) IIRSM
    b) The Institute of Municipal Safety Officers (IMSO)
    c) The British Standards Institute
    d) The British Safety Council
  1. It was reported that the main industries to give occupational safety and health early credibility were:
    a) Construction
    b) Chemical
    c) Iron and Steel
    d) Utilities
  1. In what year did the IISO officially become known as IOSH?
    a) 1981
    b) 1945
    c) 1962
    d) 2002
  1. IOSH has been registered as a charity since which year?
    a) 1945
    b) 1962
    c) 1981
    d) 2002
  2. IOSH was awarded the Royal Charter in which year?
    a) 2002
    b) 1945
    c) 1962
    d) 1981



  1. b
  2. a
  3. c
  4. d
  5. b
  6. b
  7. b, c, d
  8. a
  9. b
  10. a

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Terry ap Hywel
Terry ap Hywel
9 years ago

I had the privilege and pleasure to attend the 5 week Construction Safety Officers course at Brooklands School of Management in 1976 where the course leader was Stan Barnes. All the delegates were impressed by the standard of the course (sadly now not available) but Stan particularly impressed everyone with his professionalism, knowledge, experience and dedication.

Looking at the photos in this article I am astonished to see that Stan does not appear to have aged at all in 39 years!!

Ken Maxted
Ken Maxted
4 years ago
Reply to  Terry ap Hywel

I also had the pleasure of the course you mention at Brooklands and remember Stan and the safety adviser from Wimpy Construction. I wonder sometimes how many of the people are still safety advisers today.

HSE john
HSE john
9 years ago

9 out of 10 well impressed

Manoj Kumar Rayaroth
Manoj Kumar Rayaroth
8 years ago

highly informative session about IOSH