SHP online asks Louise Hosking about her career journey
Featured in the April 2015 issue of SHP Magazine, Louise Hosking is interviewed about her career as a Safety and Health Practitioner – to include both the biggest changes AND challenges she’s faced over time, and answers the question How Did I Get Here?
“There are more women in other environmental health roles. Diversity brings balance and different perspectives. Women are also very persuasive.”
1. How did you get started in health and safety?
My father insisted I chose a profession before going to University. I did work experience with the Environmental Health team in Cambridge, and the rest is history!
2. What does your current role involve?
Hosking Associates provides Safety or Environmental Manager services to organisations who do not require a whole person, or prefer to outsource, and we support internal teams sometimes too. We also audit safety and environmental management systems. My time is split between running or promoting the company, being there for our team, and client work.
3. How do your qualifications help you in your day-to-day job?
The Environmental Health qualification I gained from Nottingham Trent has been my foundation. The diversity of the course has enabled me to transition between specialisms.
4. Working in risk management, what have been the biggest safety challenges you have experienced?
Probably major legislative change. When the 6 pack hit in the 90’s, I was tasked with looking at how The Co-Operative would manage its duty to risk assess manual handling across divisions. I was at Savills when asbestos requirements changed significantly in 2002. We had to ensure that a portfolio of over 500 commercial properties and Savills-occupied offices were compliant. Now, I could be approached by clients from all sorts of sectors at different stages, usually with very limited budgets, so every day is a challenge!
5. How do you go about developing positive safety strategies within organisations, and have you found there to be any resistance?
It’s never helpful to create lists of faults with no solutions, or suggest grand, unachievable ideas with no plan of getting there as its totally demoralising. I aim to be consistent, realistic and help clients create arrangements which last. I’m decisive when required and pick my battles. Running my own business means I can relate to the pressures Directors are under. Sharing experience, cake, and being a helpful, reliable colleague all help too!
6. Earlier in your career you worked for Cambridge City Council and instigated several prosecutions. What did this role involve, and what did you take away?
I was a Food Safety & Health and Safety EHO. During that time I served notice on someone famous, and closed down a cockroach infested take away. I understand the role of the enforcement officer, that some people require a threat of prosecution, and what it’s like to give evidence in court.
7. Health and safety is traditionally quite male-dominated. What do you think could be achieved by making it a more diverse industry?
I only really notice this when I go to a Health & Safety CPD event. There are more women in other Environmental Health roles. Diversity brings balance and different perspectives. Women are also very persuasive!
8. How have you seen the industry change throughout your career?
At my training authority, I sat opposite an EHO who smoked massive cigars all day! I created presentations on acetates and dictated reports for a team secretary to type. We relied on reference books; today, everything is free on line and forums mean you can ask a question 24/7. Food Safety and Salmonella in eggs were headline news, and Health & Safety was in the background. This switched during the 90’s. Now I am very involved in Environmental Management – better known as plain old “Pollution” in my early career.
9. If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
For our profession to get positive! We save lives, help businesses become more efficient, and managers feel more in control. Focus on the good stuff more.