Medals signal rise of HVAC up national agenda

Jane Atkinson

Vital work in the HVAC sector to protect the public from COVID-19 and tackle climate change were recognised in the recent Birthday honours. The List revealed how the government is realising the need for its expertise.

The annual Queen’s Birthday Honours is both a thank-you to the countless volunteers across the country for helping their communities and an acknowledgement who have pioneered causes or work that move society forward.

More than a 1,000 people were given medals for volunteering work – the majority of the list – but alongside them were leaders in their field including a significant number from the HVAC sector.

So, who was on the list and why have they got official recognition?

The battle against the global pandemic meant the majority of awards reflected the huge effort made by people during lockdown.

Among then was an NHS estates plumber was been given a medal for his work at the heigh of the COVID-19 crisis.

Tony Cocker from Oldham was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s birthday Honours list. Mr Cocker, who works for Northern Care Alliance NHS Group, had worked to through the crisis to ensure extra hand washing facilities were available across all wards and departments.

Dr James Marshall, operations lead at Water UK was made an OBE for “services to the water sector” during the Covid-19 response.

An MBE was awarded to Neil Pearce from Newport who, as Aneurin Bevan University Health Board head of estates, coordinated teams to create 90 new intensive care beds and was on duty 24-7.

“Everybody has risen to the challenge,” he told local press. “So many people in the health service worked tirelessly throughout the first wave.”

As always, the list includes the officials and military ranks who have served the government from local councils right through to embassy staff abroad. There are also Commonwealth officials and members of the Royal household such as police protection officers who have given years of service.

That leaves a small but significant group of people who have made an outstanding contribution to public life.

Many of those pioneers have overcome resistance among their peers – or even from the government. Being awarded a medal is sometimes a way of ‘the Establishment’ to make a tacit statement of where it stands on an issue.

So it is significant that people from the HVAC sector were among medal recipients. Some were for their interests away from the job.

Paul Chaplow from Norton, who owns his plumbing and heating firm, was given a British Empire Medal for services to clay pigeon shooting. He is a multiple England, Britain and European champion in the Down-the-Line (DTL) trap clay-pigeon shooting.

Several heads of water companies were among the recipients.

Richard Flint, former chief executive of Yorkshire Water, was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to the water industry and the environment.

Christopher Jones, former chief executive, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water was given the same award.

Liv Garfield, chief executive of Severn Trent, was also made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to the water industry. The firm was recently commended by City leaders for female representation in senior roles and was given a 4* rating by the Environment Agency.

This year should have been when the UN’s big climate conference should have been held. It was cancelled due to the pandemic. It’s an agenda where the UK government wants to make an impact, despite sections of the national media being sceptical.

Several appointments signalled that the government won’t be compromising.

Professor Nilay Shah was made an OBE for services to the decarbonisation of the UK economy.

Stuart Payne who is responsible for the Oil and Gas Authority’s activities in decommissioning and the UK service sector was made a CBE.

Pennon Group, the utility and waste management company based in Exeter, celebrated Nigel Finn becoming an OBE. The senior HR manager got the award for services to apprenticeships and technical education in South West England.

Hardship as a result of the lockdown has now become a crucial issue for the government – and a campaigning issue for the CIPHE. So it was encouraging to see Maria Wardrobe was made an OBE for her work when she was director of communications at National Energy Action for services to Tackling Fuel Poverty.

One of the biggest engineering projects in the country is the development of the next generation of nuclear power stations. Building the HVAC elements of the new stations is Bilfinger UK and Jane Atkinson, engineering and automation executive director was made an OBE with the rank of Commander.

Jane was named as ‘The Most Influential Woman in UK Engineering’ in 2019 in an annual list produced by the board appointments firm Inclusive Boards in partnership with the Financial Times.

The firm said: “We would like to congratulate Jane on this prestigious honour and lifetime achievement and we are proud to have her in our organisation!”

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