Caroline Thomas obituary


My wife, Caroline Thomas, who has died aged 89 of cancer, was an applied psychologist who worked on safety and accident prevention, championing the role of consumers in the development of standards.

Known professionally as Caroline Warne, she played a pivotal role in consumer safety and accident prevention over six decades, beginning with research into industrial and household accidents, and culminating in her chairing the consumer policy committee of the International Standards Organization (ISO). She was appointed OBE in 2005.

Caroline was born in Manchester, the daughter of Molly (nee Walker) and Glynn Warne, senior lecturer in botany at Manchester University. She was raised in a scientific household to have an inquiring mind.

After leaving Withington girls’ school, Manchester, she studied natural sciences at Girton College, Cambridge, graduating in 1964. She began her career in 1964 at the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, six years later joining the consultancy firm Scicon, where she worked on the design of anti-bandit screens for the Post Office. That was where we met.

In 1975 Caroline moved to the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection, working under Shirley Williams, who was secretary of state at the time. There Caroline developed the Home Accident Surveillance System, a groundbreaking database that enabled the recording and research of accidents in the home. For 25 years it provided vital data to improve consumer safety standards, such as those for infant cots.

We married in 1977, settled in Ealing, west London, and had two daughters. In the subsequent decades, Caroline continued her consumer standards work.

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She left the civil service in 1983. Then she worked freelance at the British Standards Institute, the Tavistock Institute, and as a lecturer in applied psychology at Thames Valley (now West London) University.

In 2002 she was elected to chair the ISO’s consumer policy committee. In this capacity she was instrumental in bringing to fruition international standards on consumer guarantees and warranties, and on secondhand goods. She was committed to inclusivity and diversity, encouraging the participation of developing countries.

Caroline never really retired, and after her term as committee chair ended in 2006, she continued her involvement as a mentor. She became a trustee of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, and also a magistrate.

In 1998 we bought an imposing Victorian villa in Lyme Regis, Dorset, overlooking the Cobb, and this needed comprehensive restoration. Together with a local architect, Caroline transformed the house into a wonderful home. She also had an interest in plants and was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society and Kew Gardens.

With friends we started a walking group in 1994; despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s in 2012, Caroline managed the monthly walk up to March last year.

She is survived by me, our daughters, Charlotte and Verity, four grandchildren and two sisters.



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