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Lifetime achievement award for Richard Barker

Retiring health and safety manager will be missed by all

Russell WBHO health and safety professional Richard Barker has been honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the North West Construction Safety Group.

The award recognises a career dedicated to keeping colleagues safe and having a positive impact in the sector.

Richard was nominated by Darren Williams, head of health and safety at Russell WBHO, and was selected by the NWCS Group committee. He was presented with the award by managing director Gareth Russell in front of his colleagues at a recent Russell WBHO company event.

Darren Williams said: “Richard has devoted his entire working life to the betterment of conditions for those working in our industry. From his early days as a project manager to many decades working in health and safety, Richard’s vast and multi-disciplined experience has been invaluable in terms of training, guidance, management, and influence. He has been a valued and highly respected colleague at Russell WBHO and a very popular mentor for our junior staff and Building Student trainees, and thoroughly deserves this award.”

Richard, 66, has worked in the construction industry for 50 years (to the day) and retires this summer after four enjoyable years as a Health and Safety manager with the Manchester-based contractor.

He said: “I was incredibly honoured to receive the lifetime achievement award from my peers at the North West Construction Safety Group, it was a very proud moment at the end of a long and enjoyable career.”

Richard, who lives on the Wirral, spent most of his career with Alfred McAlpine / Carillion working in a variety of roles including engineer, site manager and project manager, before joining the Russell WBHO H&S team in 2019.

So much has changed, yet so much has remained constant over the last half century says Richard, who started work before the Health and Safety at Work Act even came into force, six months prior to decimalisation, and the year the Watergate scandal broke in the USA.

“Health and Safety has changed beyond recognition since I started in 1973, thanks of course to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the subsequent improvements in this area. You look at the injury statistics 50 years ago compared to today, it’s shocking what was acceptable before then,” said Richard.

“What’s not changed in all those years is the people and the craic, it’s still great fun working in this industry and the people are the best. I think the construction professional’s approach to problem solving is quite unique; don’t try to tell them something can’t be done. They’re innovative, hard-working, smart, and always entertaining, I will miss the camaraderie.”

In all his years working on hundreds of projects throughout the UK, Richard finds it hard to pinpoint one favourite building, though the Grosvenor shopping centre in Chester holds a special place in his heart.

Richard was given a fitting send off by his Russell WBHO colleagues with a dinner at the new Municipal Hotel in Liverpool, his last live project, with construction director John Millward leading the tributes.

John, who worked with Richard for over 30 years, was delighted to recruit his former colleague to the business. He said: “Richard hanging up his ‘hard-hat’ for the last time is a poignant moment for everybody. He’ll be sadly missed by the business and the industry as a whole, although his ‘dad jokes’ will be missed less so!

“Richards’s operational background has always shone through in terms of his approach to Health & Safety matters and decision making, not to mention his people skills. Richard’s retirement leaves big boots to fill, and we all wish him and his family all the best health and happiness in the next chapter of his life.”

A dedicated family man, Richard is looking forward to spending more time with his family during his retirement. He’ll keep busy with plans for extensive travel, especially in his beloved caravan, and community work including volunteering as the chair of governors at a local secondary school.

Richard and his Russell WBHO colleagues enjoyed his retirement party at Liverpool’s new Municipal Hotel

Richard sports a fetching red jumper for this project team photo during his time with Pochin

Richard Barker, left, with former colleagues

Darren Williams’ Nomination of Richard Barker for the North West Construction Safety Group Lifetime Achievement Award 2023

“As the Head of Health and Safety for Russell WBHO, Richard’s mentorship in good leadership, diplomacy and empathy for fellow colleagues has shaped the way I work and has helped make the department what it is.

“We have seen a 40% reduction in accidents over the past three years despite a 50% increase in the hours worked on our sites; a department that enjoys the trust and respect of the entire business from the Board of Directors to each and every site operative; and a department that was recently awarded the North West Construction Hub Award for Health, Safety and Wellbeing 2022.

“Without Richard’s mentorship I am not sure our successes would be nearly as profound as they are.

“Richard neither craves nor enjoys the limelight. If asked, he would continually play down his achievements as unremarkable and nothing more than should be expected. He has never sought out leadership or authority and, as such, may not be as prolific as some others who would be nominated for this award.

“If, however this award is decided on the legacy and overall good a person has brought to our industry, if it is awarded to those who have quietly influenced the spirit of health and safety of construction professionals numbering in the hundreds while forgoing any lauding or recognition, then I would say there is no more deserving person for such an award than Richard Barker.”

Richard, front right, with colleague John Millward behind during their time with Alfred McAlpine