This week Steve Critchlow was awarded with the EngTech of the Year award as part of our virtual Gas Utilisation conference. Previous winner Dave Tompkin presented Steve with the award, recognising his outstanding work and commitment to the industry and his career.
Steve Critchlow is a Fellow member of IGEM, who joined the Institution as an Engtech in 2010. He is a Gas Safe Registered engineer who is employed as a Senior Engineer by the Health and Safety Executive Science Division. We asked Steve to describe his work and his involvement with IGEM.
"I have worked for HSE for over 20 years. Originally my role was solely the technical investigation of gas related incidents but it has become increasingly broad over the years. The best aspect of my job is that it’s very varied, but truth be told I spend far too long these days at my desk writing reports!
"I cover the whole of the UK investigating gas explosions, carbon monoxide incidents and making assessments of poor engineering with gas, oil, solid fuel and biomass installations. This involves an awful lot of last minute changes of plan and drives across the country at short notice. It is incredibly sad to see the devastation caused to people’s lives and businesses by serious incidents, but for me it is a privilege to be able to help those people to understand what has happened. I find the science of gas explosions fascinating and fortunately over the years I have been able to build up considerable experience and knowledge. In 2013 I was given a Police Commendation award for my investigation of a child death in an explosion in Oldham. This led to a conviction and a 10 years sentence for manslaughter. In 2014 I was award a Crown Court Commendation by the Judge for my investigation of a carbon monoxide fatality from an oil air heater installation.
"HSE has a large network of regulatory inspectors throughout the UK and I provide technical gas training to them, as well offering technical advice for them on-site or in their investigations. I also work closely with HSE’s Engagement and Policy Division, helping them formulate gas policy and providing technical responses to questions from industry and the public.
"Since the changing to the UK Sentencing Guidelines is has become more common for defendants to employ experts in their defence against HSE prosecution. Even where they plead guilty they will still employ an expert to offer mitigation. This has led to me increasingly offering independent expert advice to the Court. Without doubt appearing in court is my least favourite part of the job and it can be very stressful, but it now accounts for a very large percentage of my work for HSE.
"Early in my career with HSE I was fortunate to meet two men who have had a tremendous influence on me. Dr. Steve Johnson and Dr. Gary Tomlin are both guys who started out on the tools with British Gas but with a determination to constanly better themselves they have studied and climbed through the industry to be tremendously successful and leaders in their field. Steve runs Specialist Gas Assessment Services in Blackpool while Gary is one of the country’s most knowledgeable gas research scientists at DNVGL. Both of them encouraged me to join IGEM and Steve wrote my initial membership proposal. Joining IGEM is one of the best things I ever did professionally. It opened my eyes to a whole world of knowledgeable people and learning opportunities through which I have been able to develop. Steve and Gary also both encouraged me to undertake my MSc in gas engineering which I should complete early in 2021.
"I currently give my time to IGEM on the IGEM Council and Membership Committee, the Engtech working group, the Unsafe Situations committee, and the standards committee for GL/8. I was very proud to be awarded an IGEM Fellowship in 2020. I would recommend IGEM to anyone in the gas industry who wants to learn more about how our whole industry operates and why our industry standards say what they do."
Find out more about becoming an EngTech here, or apply for our EngTech Development grant here.