Skip to main content

Kristin Hoskin on managing risk with standards

New Zealand is helping the world shape good practices across occupational health and safety and risk management to protect workers and assure business continuity. Meet the subject matter expert representing our needs on the global stage.

Occupational health and risk committee representative Kristin Hoskin

Health, safety and risk committee representative Kristin Hoskin

In 2020, businesses large and small tried to pivot in the wake of the global pandemic. The topics of managing disruption-related risk, occupational health, safety and wellbeing and business continuity were suddenly put into the limelight.

One of those at the forefront of determining good practice that applies just as much to daily working life as it does during pandemics is Kristin Hoskin. She has been involved with development committees for ISO standards and joint Australian/New Zealand standards since 2015.

New Zealand’s voice in international standards

Kristin is the New Zealand mirror committee Co-Convenor for ISO technical committee 283 working with an international team responsible for developing ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems — Requirements with guidance for use, amongst others. ‘I’ve worked with risk management standards for a long time and know the calibre of those involved in the development, many of them my mentors,’ says Kristin. ‘Having been on the Board of Risk New Zealand and being involved with a group of like-minded professionals working towards a shared interest was appealing. Plus, as a user of standards I have enjoyed them as a tool to guide how we do things, logically, so business is more efficient and resilient. Overlap from one standard tends to help in applying others.’

Managing disruption

By day Kristin is a Christchurch-based consultant, specialising in organisational risk management, health and safety, resiliency, emergency management, and crisis management.

‘These are fundamental principles that apply to any business, no matter the size, location, or sector. Here standards provide a centralised tool to ensure both your business can thrive and your workers are protected. If you do it right, you’ve got a more robust business’, says Kristin. ‘Just look at the level of supply disruption from the pandemic. Even with prior business continuity planning the world was not prepared for wholesale loss of a workforce or entire supply chains being disrupted. Many businesses operating under the ‘just in time’ approach that sees only a minimum amount of inventory or raw material arrive in time for production or resale to meet demand were hit hardest. While this approach reduces risk and cost associated with holding stock, you can get problems that cascade from one manufacturer to the next, to retailers. Then the economy stagnates.’

‘This environment can also spawn creativity and new ways to do things, but it’s a matter of identifying where the disruption occurred, what disruptions need to be minimised and what you can live with. AS/NZS 5050 Managing disruption-related risk was developed as a short go to for business continuity planning and helpful for recovery post-Covid.’

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point

Much of Kristin’s work is developing plans and practices that many of us take for granted including safety for consumers, safety for workers, corporate risk and environmental risk. ‘It’s often easy to not notice success as people only really notice when things go wrong. We should always seek new ways to manage risks better,’ she says, ‘and we assume risk management has been around for ages, but some commonly used practices have only existed within our lifetime. For example, food safety came largely from NASA who had to think about all things that could go wrong such as food poisoning in space. From this work in the 60s came the international Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, or HACCP, which looks to monitor and control each step of the process and is now the backbone of food safety standards.’

What can New Zealand bring to international standards?

With participating status on international standards development, it means New Zealand can not only keep across developments in best practice, but actively contribute learnings and perspectives.

‘New Zealand is often seen as a middle ground arbitrator, able to see different people’s perspectives despite being somewhat siloed with unique conditions compared with less isolated countries. This geographical isolation does mean we may have more need for local standards in some instances, but it can be more expensive for dealing with common shared issues and requires drawing on limited resources that are at times stretched.

‘If you call on the international scene you can get a far broader perspective with different cultures and languages. Even with our diverse cultures, when you work with people overseas you must embrace a wider range of cultures; and translatability can be a challenge. For example, with health and safety and risk one of the terms used is ‘likelihood’. Risk is commonly defined as consequence times likelihood, however when translated into some languages ‘likelihood’ translates as ‘probability’ but in English probability is just one type of likelihood. When words do not translate literally it can lead to huge debates.’

A universal need for health and safety

‘As a nation we have sadly seen the effects of unmanaged risk, and so standards impact the lives of all New Zealanders in addressing that.’ As a respected author on the subject, Kristin was invited to present at an international forum for the United Nation’s ‘World Day for Safety and Health at Work’ in April.

‘Compliance doesn’t mean mindlessly following “the rules”, but rather thoughtfully applying the rules collaboratively so that workers and management own their own responsibilities and are given a safe and healthy environment and set of tools to enable safe working. It is important to learn from mistakes, but it is even more important to learn from successes.

‘Feedback at a recent conference revealed people weren’t aware of the range or breadth of risk and health and safety standards or how management standards work together. Aligning management standards means you can get maximum value out of them and minimise some of the auditing burden.’

‘The most rewarding element is developing advice that directly addresses needs. I’ve found great reward in being part of our international community that came together to help recover from the pandemic. We developed ISO 31030:2021 Travel risk management - Guidance for organisations in time to provide a structured approach to business needs around travel post-pandemic.  Another recent standard is AS/NZS ISO 45003:2021 which provides guidance for psychological health and safety at work and is a good tool for businesses to use with their people.’

Top issues on the horizon

‘Health and safety and climate change are inextricably linked and so standards around H&S programmes will need to accommodate climate change impacts. One key thing people don’t appreciate is that with the change in the hot/cold seasons and more extreme conditions some things that usually die off seasonally aren’t. We’re seeing more zoonosis (transmission of viruses from animals to humans), and plagues of insects that haven’t died back over winter, mosquitos appearing in areas they didn’t previously, or crops impacted by more fungus. These are just some examples of things that either impact our health or the things we use.

‘Warmer environments can even impact the safety of our PPE. For example, workers might be getting more dermatitis as increased microbiological growth occurs inside gloves. The importance of better hygiene practices to offset sickness increases. People often don’t think about these things relating to climate change.’

‘Another priority is my Oceania representative role on an ISO working group looking to see how Pacific nations, such as Tonga, can leverage off of neighbouring Asian nations to implement health and safety standards as a backbone for workforce safety. For ISO this work is reflected in African nations also.’

Where to begin?

‘Health and safety and risk management standards generally align, cover a broad range of risks and provide simple and robust methodologies for things through understanding consequence and how to communicate. If you’re wondering where to start, try implementing ISO 31000:2018 Risk management — Guidelines. Complement your policies and practices with both ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems - Requirements with guidance for use and the popular suite of environmental management standards under ISO 14001. They apply to any business and a vast number of risks. Ask yourself how much better off your business could be working under the guidance of international good practice.

Want to make things better?

If anyone has a passion about something standards can help with, they should definitely get involved. It’s easy to sit on the fence and say “this could be better”, so why not do something to make it better. If anyone is keen to get onto the committees I convene, whether 283 or 262, I would love to have a chat. Both committees generate standards that work for the entire population, span all sectors and contribute to the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

Contact us at Standards New Zealand by emailing ISO Administrator 

You can learn more about Kristin’s work with ISO through her presentation resource:

World Health and Safety Day 2023: Ensuring a Risk Engaged Workforce(external link)