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December 20, 2007

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MP’s lifelong safety campaigning celebrated

An MP who has spent most of his working life helping to improve the health and safety of workers has picked up the IOSH/Sypol Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michael Clapham MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on occupational safety and health, and member of parliament for Barnsley West and Penistone, was presented with the award at the IOSH Annual Dinner, at Alton Towers.

On receiving the award, Mr Clapham said: “Can I thank IOSH for awarding me the Lifetime Achievement Award. I’m very proud to have received it, and perhaps prouder because it reflects the work we’ve been able to do having founded the all-party parliamentary group. Having the group ensures health and safety is discussed in parliament, and that MPs are aware of changes in health and safety.”

Mr Clapham began his working career aged 15 at Dodworth Colliery in Yorkshire. Despite working long shifts, he went back to school and eventually received a First Class honours degree and is a Master of Philosophy in industrial relations.

Having seemingly escaped the mines, Mr Clapham couldn’t resist getting involved again with the pits, taking up a position in industrial relations with the National Union of Miners (NUM), and it was here that his interest and awareness of health and safety and its importance was cultivated.

This was strengthened further when he took up a post with the National Coal Board (NCB): “I came to realise during my work at NCB that it was the emphasis on safety that made British collieries the safest in the world.”

But it was his fight to get people to understand the devastating effects of chest diseases like mesothelioma, cardio-obstructive pulmonary disease and pleural plaques that really brought Mr Clapham to prominence: “When I was first elected an MP in 1992 I took with me a much greater understanding of these diseases and of the impact they had on the UK economy.”

Among Mr Clapham’s greatest achievements is being at the forefront of the campaign that transferred liability for mineworkers’ illnesses to the UK government, which has so far resulted in £2.1 billion in payments.

But he has also campaigned for better safety in a variety of other areas, including in the construction industry, for young people entering the workplace, and, he has been a staunch campaigner for a director’s duty on health and safety.

Despite announcing plans to stand down at the next election, Mr Clapham still has a few more things he’d like to achieve, including continuing to campaign against the recent decision by the House of Lords in relation to pleural plaques, scarring of the lungs which can be caused by exposure to asbestos.

“We have to focus resources and we’re seeing changes come about. The Government has responded in a positive way, although in Parliament, the parties tend to see a consensus on health and safety — there’s a uniform approach and as a result of that, we’ve made a lot of progress.”

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