Bayer group risk manager Colin Barker opens up to StrategicRISK

Colin Barker

What is your greatest fear?

Being burned alive. It must be a slow, painful and horrific death.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Going for a walk while on holiday in Vancouver and suddenly finding myself quite unexpectedly the only clothed person on a male nudist beach.

What is your most treasured possession?

Memories. Particularly of people who are no longer alive. I would hate to lose such precious memories.

What makes you happy?

Seeing any of our five children having fun or watching them celebrating a particular achievement.

What makes you unhappy?

As a parent, I get most unhappy when I hear any stories about child abuse or neglect. It makes me unhappy and angry.

Who is your hero?

My maternal grandmother. The eldest of five children, two of whom were born blind, her mother and siblings were abandoned by her father at an early age and the family went to the workhouse. She had to work to support the entire family through hard labour jobs such as being a drayman (wagon driver) and working in a brick factory.

Although widowed twice, forced to bury her eldest son at an early age and having had a generally hard upbringing, she never once complained and considered herself to be fortunate. Entirely unselfishly, she spent the tiny amount of pension that she received indulging her young grandchildren.

If you can face adversity all your life, never complain, keep smiling and still be grateful for what little you do have, then you’re a hero in my eyes.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?

Having a blazing argument over a matter of principle with my then boss (who was extremely choleric and dictatorial by nature). It lasted for almost an hour and I expected to be fired. Fortunately I wasn’t, and he subsequently changed his view and the way he treated me.

What is the worst job you’ve ever done?

Putting great piles of animal guts into a slaughterhouse’s gut skip with my bare hands. It was a regular Saturday job when I was an A-level student.

What is your greatest achievement?

Saving someone’s life. I’ve done it three times. Once, I kept an adult’s airway open and resuscitated them using CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Another time I diagnosed a work colleague as having internal bleeding – one of the more difficult things to diagnose – and I got them to hospital, where they received emergency surgery and eight pints of blood to address major internal bleeding. I have also stopped a young child from choking to death by turning them upside down and hitting them on their back – whereby a 20 pence piece dropped out and the child started to breathe again.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

There is always something more you can learn, but you’ve got to listen. No one ever learned by talking at the same time.

Tell us a secret?

In Moscow, I had a KGB officer put a Makarov semi-automatic pistol to my head and threaten me and, when in Canada, I had a drunken Indian threaten me with a Winchester rifle. I’ve never told anyone in my family about these incidents lest they worry.