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July 30, 2008

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Rob and Bob are off to the Palace!

IOSH members have lined up to pay tribute to chief executive Rob Strange, after he was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Rob, an honorary fellow of IOSH, will be joined at Buckingham Palace by chartered IOSH member Bob Blackman, the national secretary construction group at Unite who also received an MBE in the honours list.

IOSH President Ray Hurst was among the first to offer his congratulations, praising “our hard working and dedicated chief executive”.

“I’ve had the distinct good fortune to work closely with Rob over the last two years in my role as both president elect and as president. The award is recognition of Rob’s undoubted dedication, commitment, integrity and service to us, the members, and reflects well on IOSH and the profession as a whole.”

Another former president echoed this message. Neil Budworth commented: “When I was president I really got to see how much work Rob puts in behind the scenes. Rob has worked tirelessly for the Institution and it is no coincidence that the Institution has gone from strength to strength. I can’t think of anyone who more deserved this honour.”

Rob said that he had been “deeply honoured and humbled to receive this official recognition”, but added: “This award is not about me, it’s about the effort and determination of every single member of staff at IOSH. More significantly, it’s about the dedicated work of the 33,000 IOSH members worldwide – without their ongoing commitment to our cause and their support I would not be here to collect this award.

“Our work is not complete. 241 people died in workplace accidents last year and more than 300,000 were hurt. There’s a long way to go before I, and the thousands of health and safety professionals out there, will be satisfied with the UK’s health and safety record. We might be statistically one of the best in Europe, but we’re nowhere near good enough for the families and friends of those who lose their lives at work.”

Rob joined IOSH in 1997 as deputy chief executive, becoming chief executive on 1 January 2001. He became a trustee of IOSH in November 2005, and has since been made an honorary fellow.

“I will be travelling to Buckingham Palace sometime later this year, with my wife and, hopefully, my two married children to receive the actual ‘gong’.”

Bob meanwhile was equally surprised at being awarded the MBE. The 57-year-old was involved in setting up and directing the Constructing Better Health and the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). He also sits on the influential CONIAC (Construction Industry Advisory Committee), was involved in the Construction Design Management Regulations Working Group and is the chair of the CITB Construction-Skills Health Safety and Environment Committee.

Of receiving the honour, he said: “I was very surprised at first and I feel it is recognition of the trade union movement and what it has done to improve the safety of workers, particularly in construction. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

“In construction there are a lot of occupational health problems being caused as a result of what the workers are doing in their jobs. There are still a lot of problems with musculoskeletal disorders and manual handling generally and we’re also finding that up to 20 people are dying each week as a result of exposure to asbestos. People say asbestos is a 20th century problem, but it’s very much a 21st century problem too.”

And for the future, Bob said he hopes clients, both in the public and private sectors, will start setting minimum standards and requirements for health and safety and occupational health as part of the procurement process.

“Naturally, I’m looking forward to going to Buckingham Palace. I’ve never been there before, and it will be something quite special,” said Bob, who lives in Corringham in Essex.

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