Tributes paid to industry's 'shining light'

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As the industry remembers Steve Walton's contribution to the offshore community, family, friends and colleagues paid tribute to a man "full of laughter."

Steve served faithfully as an elected safety rep for more than 20 years before his sudden death on November 19th last year at just 54-years old.  The dedicated offshore worker suffered a heart attack at home. 

His widow Marie said: "He absolutely loved his work.  Not many people can say that.  He was with WoodGroup PSN for most of his career.  For the past few years he's been a storeman offshore.  His work with Step Change in Safety was his passion.  He gave speeches for Step Change, which was good because he loved to talk!"

In one of those speeches, Steve coined the phrase the 'unrecognised asset' for safety representatives.  Steve understood the importance of people in the safety equation and worked tirelessly to see that recognised. 

His wife of 24-years added: "When Steve was at home in Great Ayton he would spend hours and hours in his study working on his passion, health and safety.  He loved the lads he worked with offshore and wanted to do everything he could to make their job just that little bit safer. 

"When the men from Piper Alpha died, I remember Steve spending time in his study to learn all of their names.  He spent so much time offshroe and worked on so many rigs it was important for him to do that."

Former colleague and close friend, Jake Molloy, praised Steve for his selfless sacrifice to safety. 

He said: "Many workers owe this man a great deal for the impact he's had through the years.  One of his big achievements in the mid 90s was retaining a SAR (search and rescue) facility in the East Shetland basin."

During his career, Steve played a pivotal role in countless safety measures, including lifting systems, emergency response exercises, maintenance processes and asset integrity issues.  He also pushed for NEBOSH (the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) training for safety reps, was influential in developing the final standard of the new SI 971 courses and played a critical part in the Piper25 conference last year. 

Jake added: "Steve is a great loss to the industry because I believe he still had a great deal more to give.  With a couple of dozen more people like Steve we'd be working in a different place today, certainly a safer place.  We owe Steve a lot and we should remember him today because he achieved what we all strive for - he made a difference."

Step Change in Safety team leader Les Linklater also paid tribute to his friend and colleague.  

He said: "Steve was a shining light in the offshore industry.  He had this amazing ability to cut through complicated situations with his sharp Yorkshire wit.  Steve had a talent of seeing and understanding both sides of any challenge.  That's what made him such an integral part of Step Change.  He acted as a bridge between opposing sides and he did so with the utmost integrity. 

"When I had the challenge of finding four people from the industry to read out the names of those who died in the Piper Alpha tragedy at the rededication ceremony, Steve was the first name I thought of."

For Marie, it's about learning to come to terms with life without Steve.  For now, she remembers the man who never missed  a Times crossword and doted on his four grandchildren. 

She said: "Steve was very much a family man.  He adored his grandchildren.  He used to spend hours playing with them.  They would make little origami figures and Steve would write the grandchildren's names on each of the figures before floating them on boards down the river together. 

"The grandchildren still ask where their Grandad Banana is.  Steve once came home in a bright yellow jacket and baby Reese said he looked like a banana.  The name just stuck.  We told them Grandad is on the moon.  Now when the moon comes out Reese will should hello to his Grandad Banana and show him what new toy he has or just talk to him.

"I still can't believe he's gone.  He was the centre of the whole family.  I still expect him to walk back in the door.  If he's remembered for anything I hope it's for how loving he was.  He was full of life and laughter.  He was one of those people who just made you feel good."

Steve is survived by his wife Marie, mum Kendra, dad David, brother Nigel, stepdaughter Donna, stepson Jason and grandchildren Jake, Romani, Damon and Reese.