December 15, 2021

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‘We’ve got to come together as a profession and it’s extraordinary and exciting’

In November, Louise Hosking officially began her tenure as President of IOSH, taking over from Jimmy Quinn, who becomes Immediate Past President. In this article, SHP speaks to both Jimmy and Louise to look back on the last 12 months and to see what’s in store for 2022.

Louise Hosking IOSH presidentLouise Hosking was officially confirmed as IOSH’s new figurehead at its annual general meeting on 16 November, replacing outgoing President Jimmy Quinn. She will serve in the role for 12 months, representing IOSH in webinars and events around the world.

Louise began her career as an environmental health officer, taking particular interest in the regulatory side and getting involved with prosecutions, before moving into the private sector at the Co-Operative, where she dealt with a range of environmental health factors, including health and safety and food safety. She then become heavily involved in their story development, and newbuild program, looking at the design and construction of stores.

That led her into a role in the construction sector and ultimately to became Head of Environmental Health and Safety at a global real estate firm. “I loved my role, but I felt that I could use my skills in other places, so I took the decision to leave the corporate world to work for smaller companies. From there, I set-up my own health and safety consultancy business. Through all of those experiences, I feel like I’ve I worked with a huge range of different types of business, which gives me a really diverse landscape in terms of health and safety.

“I’ve got 30 years of experience in health and safety, on top of the experience of running a business, which has really helped to set my Presidential themes in respective for the year ahead.”

Scroll to the bottom of this page to listen to audio from this interview…

Crucial time in history

James QuinnOn taking over the role, she told the IOSH AGM: “It is an absolute honour to become IOSH President, especially at such a crucial time in the history of the Institution and the profession as a whole.”

Immediate Past President, Jimmy Quinn, Multiplex’s Senior Health and Safety Manager, had a similar message when he took over as IOSH President in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, in October 2020, highlighting that it was an “important time” for the profession, with businesses turning to safety and health professionals as they sought to protect their people and their futures.

Looking back on his tenure, Jimmy told SHP his plan was to ‘be a member’s President’. Jimmy, whilst accepting the restrictions that came during the pandemic, acknowledged that he would have to tweak his plans slightly, but that he was prepared for it and could adapt to the situation.

“I believe that I was the right person to be President at the right time, during this pandemic”, Jimmy said. “I am a people person; I am all about the members and all about the volunteers and I wanted to be a member’s President. I wanted to meet members, through the virtual space, taking advantage of the social media platforms to reach out to ordinary members.”

During the last 12 months, members that applied for Council had risen from around 40 up to 81, many of whom attended the virtual coffee mornings, hosted by Jimmy.

“My main highlights were meeting the members and encouraging them to do things, encouraging them not to have any barriers and to become volunteers.”

Jimmy admits that some of the restrictions brought about by the pandemic actually led to what he says is his biggest achievement, allowing him to become more accessible as a President, through virtual meetings and social media. Although Jimmy is not shy in saying that social media wasn’t one of his strengths initially, he grasped it and really opened himself up to “the membership, the membership, the membership. I was able to get out there and be that President for the membership. It allowed me to Chair groups, I went to every single group in IOSH this year, sat in virtual committee coffee meetings and welcomed members from all over the world. The social networking side and virtual meetings were absolutely essential to me.”

Veterans and armed forces

Jimmy is also immensely proud of the work he has overseen around the IOSH veterans and Armed Forces. Jimmy is the second career soldier to be IOSH President in its 76-year history and, since leaving the army, he has publicly spoken about how IOSH assisted him in his transition to “civvie” street. Jimmy has a strong belief that the skills and experiences that serving in the armed forces provides, lends itself excellently to a second career in health & safety.

“I believe that a service person can do anything that they want to do, whether you want to be in management, project management, health and safety, the retail industry, a service industry, we’re already halfway there with all the skills that are needed. Being in the armed forces is all about being people facing, analysing problems, managing people, managing time, tackling logistical problems and so on. Whether you’ve served three years or 35 years, you’re already halfway into any role. The part you need to learn is the part that’s the technical parts.

“When it comes to the ‘power skills’ or ‘soft skills’, those are already there and you can turn them to any type of environment that you want, which is why I think that veterans are an important person to bring into any type of work.”

One of the highlights of Jimmy’s tenure was his work setting up a LinkedIn group, with support from IOSH, to champion and support veterans and the armed forces and promote that a career in health & safety is a viable option for them. “I cast Matt Jackson and Simon Donnelly to work with IOSH as part one of my focus groups, with the aim of trying to engage with the armed forces and for IOSH to show that we care about our veterans. ‘Come listen to the veterans that are already here, and if you feel health and safety is something that you’d like to do, then let’s push on that journey. However, if you feel that it’s not something you’d like to do, and let’s still have veterans helping veterans.’”

Mental health

Jimmy’s second area of focus was around mental health, led by council members Keith Hole and Joanne Price. “The reason we really came up with the idea for the mental Health Focus Group was that, at some stage, it would morph into and assist with the Veterans Group, and we could use and compile lots of information that would assist both groups.

“I’m very lucky because I’m part of a massive company, Multiplex, and I’m a Mental Health First Aider, and we’ve got our own consultant that we can reach out anytime, go for a coffee and be signposted to useful resources and information. But this was about the IOSH members that working on their own, who do they turn to? Do they have to go through their own insurance, or do they have to go through a hospital? Who is signposting them?” That’s what the mental health focus group was all about, providing support for those people.

As Jimmy moves into his role as Immediate Past President, he intends to continue his work actioning some of the points raised by the focus groups, particularly supporting veterans by getting involved and volunteering with as many of the smaller charities as possible, such as Support Our Soldiers, and Veterans Families United.

Support for the profession and its people

Recognising the unique challenges many people have had to overcome over the last two years, Louise said that what she is most looking forward to is being there for the members, being there for the profession, being there for the stakeholders and taking people forward. “I love building teams and working with people and over the next year I’m fortunate that I’m going to get to meet so many people.”

Louise described Jimmy as a ‘phenomenal’ President and identified the challenges he has had to overcome but has also taken on board some of the opportunities. “We’re already talking about having hybrid approach to it, Jimmy probably got to meet more people over the last year than any other President has, so I’m certainly going to be going out and about but I’m also looking forward to taking advantage of the technology we have available.

“I’ve learned so much over the last couple of years, and I think with our global community and the global conversations that we’ve had it’s just phenomenal. I said this at the AGM, we need global solutions to our issues, we’ve got to come together. We’re doing that as a profession, and it’s extraordinary and exciting. If we can raise up and look after our people, that’s going to be the way to solve some of these really challenging problems that the world is facing. As health and safety professionals, we’ve got it in our ability to help and support businesses to support their people. So, it’s all going to be about people in my year.

Being President, Louise chairs IOSH’s Council, the body which represents the interests of IOSH’s members. As chair, Louise will work with councillors to create strong thought leadership in IOSH, which is also something that really excites her.

Catch the Wave

Last month, IOSH called on the world’s businesses to harness the wave of social change by putting the needs and welfare of people first with a new global campaign on social sustainability called Catch the Wave, which ties into Louise’s plans for balance, values and sustainability. Louise called the campaign a real ‘game changer’ for the profession.

“I’ve always worked very closely with businesses. Because I run a business, I feel like I understand the challenges and those pushes and pulls that you have on you as a business owner. For me, balance is important, so it’s very much about people, planet, profit and about having all those things in balance. If we create balance, we create sustainable businesses and that’s what we’re going to need to take us through into the future.

“As health and safety professionals, we do create value. That’s the thing that’s always driven me about this job, when I work alongside businesses that really grasp this, it’s not just the health and safety side that we see develop and become more efficient and be smarter, it’s all aspects of the business.

“This whole sustainability campaign is around the fact that we really do add value to businesses, and we’ve got an opportunity now, because the world has seen how helpful we’ve been during the pandemic, to really push that message through. But it’s going to be down to us to change some of our narratives.”

“We’re a really innovative bunch of people. How often are we the only person in an organisation with our skill set, with no budget, and yet we’ve got to turn all of these things around. We’ve got it in our ability now to change the public perception of who we are and what we do. Health & safety is the ultimate Team sport and it’s a contact sport as well, I think.”

Diversity and inclusion

Louise is the seventh female IOSH President and the first since Karen McDonnell in 2015-16. She encourages others to follow her in the years to come. Diversity and inclusion are two ‘hugely important’ areas Louise will be looking to focus on over the next year.

“The way I look at diversity of thought is that there are some fixed things that we can’t change. If a fire alarm goes off, you’ve got to react to that fire alarm, but how we go about what we do and how we apply ourselves isn’t fixed and that’s the innovative exciting thing about it. But, if we’re all thinking about things in exactly the same way, we’re going miss a whole heap of potential hazards and we’re going to have a very narrow approach to what we do. So, the reason I’m so excited about everyone talking about inclusion within health and safety is because we’ve got the opportunity to bring into the mix, a wider range of people.

“For me, inclusion is about and having that mix of people. People that have been doing this for a long time, people with fresh eyes, cultural differences from different backgrounds. I think, where we have that diversity, we’re going to make better decisions and in health and safety when we make better decisions, we save more lives. Ever since I joined the presidential team, EDI has been a key area for me, and I want to support and help women in the profession.

“When I became president elect, I started to become very aware of what that meant for women in the profession, so I’m riding that wave to support other women that are coming through.”

Louise spoke of how interesting she finds it as to why people, both women and men, are not putting themselves forward, particularly around confidence, and it’s something she wants to address and improve.

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