Thames Water's Chief Health, Safety and Wellbeing Officer Karl Simons has been named as one of the individuals to have been awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours List.
Simons, who is a regular HR Grapevine contributor, has been named an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for ‘services to mental health policy’.
Simons joined the Reading-based utility firm in 2012 and has since pioneered mental health policy reform within its ranks on a company-wide scale. His work has attracted praise and recognition from members of parliament, business leaders and trade professionals.
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Speaking to HR Grapevine about the news, Simons said: "When I read the letter I was extremely emotional and in total disbelief, so I then rang the Cabinet Office who said congratulations and then rang them again several times just to triple check!
“Even now several weeks on I am still humbled by so many messages of congratulations from family, friends and colleagues,” he added.
Some of the initiatives championed by Simons include ‘Time to Talk’, which gives mental health parity with physical health in all areas of the business, and an initiative that saw 500 members of staff train as mental health first aiders.
He also reportedly led the industry in what he calls a “cultural revolution” of mental health de-stigmatisation and has ensured that suppliers and contractors follow best practice.
An OBE is an extremely exclusive honour given only to people who play a major role in their local communities, and whose work is renowned for its success.