Tribute to Simon Pickvance 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Our esteemed colleague Simon Pickvance died on November 23, 2012 from the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. For decades Simon had been at the centre of the campaign for workers' safety in Britain and abroad. Having turned his back on a safe and secure career as a molecular biologist, Simon embarked on an uncertain future in his quest for workers' rights and occupational safety and health.

Simon was a researcher, a grassroots activist, a mentor and a friend. In her tribute, Professor Thebaud-Mony, a French ban asbestos campaigner, called him “a friend and a reference in our struggles.” She recalled how Simon was “able to listen to us even when we had some difficulties to express our thoughts in English.” But that was Simon: patient and attentive. Understanding the importance of international networking, almost before the concept had been discovered, he founded the Workers' Health International Newsletter (WHIN) which was to prove a vital lifeline to global campaigners back in the olden days – long before the internet and emails. Friend Rory O'Neill described WHIN as follows: “[it] consolidated international information exchange and cooperation between union and health and safety activists and sympathetic medics and scientists worldwide.” In recognition of his lifelong commitment to occupational health and safety, Simon was recently made an Emeritus Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini, a prestigious and rare honor.


Simon was a presence, always there, always working to expose the links between hazardous exposures and occupational diseases. His pioneering work achieved so much for so many; it was work that was done every day and with no thoughts of advancement or publicity. Simon was a man of honor, integrity and keen intelligence. He was much admired and greatly loved. His death is a great loss. A memorial service is being held in Sheffield on December 4, 2012.

November 28, 2012



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