SHP Most Influential
Karl Simons named SHP’s Most Influential person in health & safety for 2019
SHP has announced the list of the most influential in health and safety voted for by you, recognising Karl Simons, Chief Health, Safety & Security Officer, Thames Water, as 2019’s ‘Most Influential’ for his work embracing technology in health & safety and challenging the stigma surrounding mental ill health.
Karl Simons right), collecting his award from Chris Edwards, Director for Safety & Health Expo, Facilities Show, Barbour EHS and SHP Online.
Karl has played an important role in working with the government to help secure a change in the law to protect mental health in the workplace. He has also implemented numerous innovative safety and security techniques at Thames Water, including the use of drones – as well as ‘Time to Talk’, a focus on mental health in the workplace. His work has seen Thames Water reduce work-related illness absence by 75% in the last five years.
As an active member of SHP’s Advisory Board, Karl plays a key role in helping to shape the future of the profession by being a part of the judging panel for SHP’s Rising Star awards.
He began his career with a 13-year stint in the military as a Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Manager, which saw him based in various locations across Europe and north America. His time in the army saw him undertake complete three tours in Bosnia and one in Kosovo during the Balkans conflicts. Like many of his peers, Karl made the switch into health & safety in 2003, when he joined Carillion.
“The reason I went into health and safety after the forces,” he told SHP, “was because I saw my role in the army as being dedicated to the preservation of life. We go into conflicts to protect the innocent. I found it was a natural fit for me.
“When I started as a health and safety officer, I had just done my NEBOSH general certificate and all I had was a part-time, 69-year old retired health and safety professional. He taught me an awful lot. I was the day-to-day health and safety officer, investigating incidents, but I needed that ‘grandfather figure’ to steer me to the bits I was not seeing.”
Karl joined Thames Water in 2012 with a vast amount of experience under his belt, having worked on all five continents, across various sectors including offshore oil and gas, minerals, rail, roads, construction and manufacturing.
In the last 12 months, Karl has played an instrumental part in lobbying the Government, calling for a change in the law to protect mental health in the workplace. He was one of 50 business leaders to sign an open letter to the Prime Minister in November.
He said: “Mental Health First Aiders at Thames Water have been a catalyst for engagement, providing our employees with the confidence to come forward and seek support at their time of need.
“At Thames Water we record five mental health first aid interventions for every physical first aid intervention, so it’s essential that every workplace has access to first aid support for both mental and physical health.”
Below are a selection of comments from those who voted for Karl as their Most Influential person on health & safety.
“Karl is always pushing for change and improvement, never static in his approach towards safety and having challenging conversations.”
“Always positively influencing and supporting others, even outside his organisation. Always embracing innovation and sharing it with the EHS community.”
“Karl is a fantastic role model of a leader in particular leading on mental health awareness, driving the implementation of an innovative approach to MHFA and dedicating so much time to raising awareness and educating nationally.”
“He is an inspirational leader. His sheer determination to bring mental health to the very top of the agenda has been awe inspiring.”
“The work Karl has done in bringing mental health into the mainstream is outstanding.”
“He is challenging stigma and raising the profile of health and wellbeing up to the same level as safety.”
“Karl has done so much for safety, health and wellbeing across so many subjects – safety, risk, mental health, physical health etc. He has also liaised with government to further the mental health at work agenda and has helped bring this subject to the forefront of peoples focus in business and society too.”
“Karl is an inspiration. As H&S lead in an organisation where health and safety is absolutely paramount minute to minute he’s always pushing boundaries, breaking down misconceptions and ensuring a climate of inclusivity in H&S.”
“Karl has revolutionised the approach and attitudes towards conventional health and safety within Thames Water. He is an inspirational leader that is always seeking the best new way to reduce or remove risk from the ways we work. Alongside this, Karl is leading the fundamental change of culture towards mental health, making it top if the agenda across Thames Water, the utilities industry and beyond. A senior leader, Karl remains really approachable, encouraging new ideas and feedback.”
“Karl’s efforts to drive the mental health agenda cannot be overstated. He and his team have transformed mental health awareness within Thames Water and more recently spread awareness in the wider UK policy. He is a role model and great speaker who inspires passion and change.”
“Karl has also done a significant amount of work around changing people’s perceptions on everything to do with health & safety.”
“His work on Mental Health has been ground-breaking in its reach into the day to day running of what is a traditionally close, masculine workforce. Karl has also managed to reach beyond Thames and the water sector through external presentations and the use of national media and engagement with national initiatives and his work has been critical in the placing of mental health at the forefront of the national consciousness.”
“I like his inclusive approach, approachable manner and mantra that health & safety is an enabler not a blocker.”
“Karl has worked tirelessly to further the cause of mental health in this country, pushing the agenda at every corner, lobbying and assisting government and large organisations towards ensuring that mental health is looked at in every work place.”
To see the rest of the SHP Most Influential list, voted for by SHP readers, click here.