Food industry stalwart honoured for services to safety and health

05 October 2016

A long-serving IOSH member has been honoured by the Institution for their “enormous contribution” to safety and health in the UK’s food and drink manufacturing industry.

FDCONF 594 cropped

Jak Thomas has received the President’s Distinguished Service Certificate from IOSH in recognition of his work over the past four decades to drive improvements within the industry.

The 67-year-old, of Hampshire, was presented with the award during the National Food and Drink Manufacturing Health and Safety Conference, held at Forest Pines Hotel & Golf Resort in Broughton, North Lincolnshire, on 4-5 October.

Jak, who has been an IOSH member since 1977, said: “I’ve been in the food and drink industry for 40 years and to get this award is a surprise, shock and honour.”

During his career, Jak has held appointments with industry names including the Milk Marketing Board, Dairy Crest Foods, United Biscuits, Grand Metropolitan Foods and Allied Milling and Baking.

He has chaired both the Federation of Bakers’ Health and Safety Committee and the Food and Drink Federation’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee, and helped to develop the renowned ‘Recipe for Safety’ initiative and other key industry safety guidance.

Jak said: “Over the years I’ve seen a lot of the food and drink industry. Attitudes and perceptions of health and safety have changed quite radically.

“People understand now that it is about having a proportionate approach to managing risk, not having a strict approach to prescriptive regulation. I’ve found that proper, well-thought-out policies and procedures have a positive impact on people’s lives, the success of a business and its reputation.”

Jak was nominated for the award by IOSH’s Food and Drink Industries Group, having served on its committee since its foundation in 2003.

In nominating Jak for the award, group chair John Boyle said: “Jak has been active in health and safety and with IOSH for a significant amount of years. 

“It is difficult to measure accurately his enormous contribution beyond the formal inputs. He has always brought his extensive knowledge and experience to bear in contributions to activities, events and projects for the benefit of IOSH, the Food and Drink Industries Group and the many members that have gained from knowing or working with Jak.

“His networks and contacts have also served to enrich our work and enable progress.”

Jak stepped down from his full-time role as Allied Milling and Baking’s national health and safety manager in September 2016. He is currently working with the organisation on a part-time basis and is due to retire in March 2017.

When asked if he had any advice for his peers, Jak said: “I’ve always looked at the job as an ‘80:20 rule’ - it’s 20% about your knowledge, skills and technical capability, and 80% about how you communicate it.

“Health and safety professionals really need to have the best possible impact and influencing skills. It’s about getting people to listen – whether it’s the guys on the production line or the CEO.”

Image: Food and Drink Industries Group committee member Jak Thomas (right) receiving the President’s Distinguished Service Certificate at this year’s food and drink conference.