Bobby Owen

Leaving school aged 16, Bobby served an apprenticeship as a heating engineer in Liverpool until he was 21 years old. During this time, he took out and stripped down old boilers, and installed new ones into convents, churches and children's homes. This work involved the use of asbestos-cased pipe insulation materials. At the time of his apprenticeship, Bobby "didn't know anything about asbestos". Beyond this time, Bobby never worked with asbestos again.

Following a couple of other jobs, and undertaking academic studies, Bobby ultimately achieved chartered member status of the Institution of Occupational Health and Safety (CMIOSH). His achievements in health and safety culminated in him becoming a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner and setting up a health and safety business with a friend during the 1990's.

Just after Christmas 2005, Bobby lost his appetite and started losing weight. In July 2006, having lost 2 stone in weight, I persuaded Bobby to visit his doctor. During the consultation with his GP, Bobby informed him that he had been getting breathless and, as a result he was sent for a chest X-ray. He went on to have several X-rays and CT scans, and was diagnosed with mesothelioma on the 8th September 2006. At the time of his diagnosis, Bobby was given 12 months to live.

Despite having a diagnosis of mesothelioma, Bobby continued working. He managed to continue doing this right through to February 2007, even though he had begun to experience extreme pain in his right leg. Bobby went on to develop secondary tumours in his spine which damaged his central nervous system to such an extent that by the morning of the 22nd February 2007, he was unable to support his weight on his left leg. This paralysis left him wheelchair-bound. Following stays in hospital and a Marie Curie hospice, Bobby returned home in March 2007. Not long after this, on the 29th March 2007, Bobby wrote an article about his own personal case study for Safety & Health Practitioner (SHP), the official magazine of IOSH. The very next day- March 30th, Bobby sadly passed away. He was 61 years old.

"You know I lost a good man and the world lost a good man, he was doing good work all his life trying to help others in different areas of health and safety".

Unfortunately, Bobby never got to celebrate his 35th wedding anniversary with me which would have been on the 9th December 2007. Since his death, our daughter has had to undergo bereavement counselling to help her deal with the tragic loss of her father, and her son (Bobby's only grandchild), wants his "gan-gan" back.

Bobby himself stated in his article for the SHP magazine, "I am putting a brave face on it, but I would rather have had another 20 years of life" His wife Helena, in speaking to youngsters just starting out in a trade in maintenance/repair, stresses that "if you want to live 'til you're 80 get the experts advice first before you tackle anything, and make sure that you've got protective clothing. Helena goes on to say, "it's not nice your family looking at you dying". She adds, "take all the precautions that the company tells you to take, and if you think you need more ask". In talking about Bobby's mesothelioma, Helena also highlights the tragic fact that, "he never thought he would have got it, he was out warning other people about it, and not knowing he was carrying it himself all these years".

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Updated 2023-05-16