Rolleston Prison construction yard came runner up in the 2020 Safeguard New Zealand Health and Safety Awards. A Rolleston Prison Construction Yard project aimed to keep everyone safe by tackling the risks posed by silica building products, has been recognised with a nomination in the work-related health risk category of the 2020 Safeguard New Zealand Health and Safety Awards.

This recognition relates to a project to change both working practice and product use and to mitigate, then eliminate the risks of crystalline silica dust (RCS) to people working in the Yard, and future building owners.

“Our goal at the Yards is to teach and demonstrate good health and safety practice through our learning opportunities and our actions,” says Prison Director Mike Howson. “This understanding is important for the men’s future employment and also so they can recognise and help reinforce good health and safety practice beyond prison. We are not only keeping them safe, but giving them the skills to help raise the safety bar in the places they work in the future. For the men working in the Yard and our staff, to see that a couple of dedicated people can change the way they work and the way big organisations like Corrections and Kāinga Ora work, that is really significant.”

Industries Manager John Bryant identified a crystalline silica dust risk in the yards.After the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, a partnership was developed between Corrections and Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand) to refurbish damaged red-zone houses. Since completing renovation of damaged houses, the Yard has begun building new houses for Kāinga Ora.

In the latter stages of the project, Corrections was using James Hardie fibre cement boards as a cladding material for the new builds. This product contains 10-30% silica in the form of quartz. Industries Manager John Bryant read a report where the International Agency for Research of Cancer (IARC) identified crystalline silica dust (RCS) as a Group 1 carcinogen over 20 years ago. RCS may be generated through cutting or drilling, both of which were occurring at Rolleston when resizing the fibre cement board.

John, supported by Regional Health and Safety Adviser Mark Hammond and Kāinga Ora Project Manager Daran Buckland, drove a project to mitigate the risk. He did this through the purchase of vacuum systems, a change in the design of buildings, which reduced the need to cut products, and ultimately, replacement of the cladding product with wood.

Rolleston Prison in Christchurch is home to two of Corrections’ busiest construction yards. Seventy prisoners at any time have the opportunity to work in the yards and learn construction skills to support their future employment opportunities and the rebuilding of Christchurch. Men working and learning in the yard gain a range of employable construction skills and qualifications, including carpentry, painting, plastering, scaffolding, roofing, forklift operations, as well as embedded literacy and numeracy skills. Having the opportunity to give something back to the community gives these men a real sense of pride. The Yard has recently completed its 100th new build.

Fonterra won the 'best initiative to address a work-related health risk’ category on the night, with the Rolleston team coming runners-up.

At the Awards dinner: Regional Commissioner Southern Ben Clark, Chief Executive Jeremy Lightfoot, Industries Manager Rolleston Prison John Bryant, Kāinga Ora Health and Safety Manager Tarniya Comrie, Kāinga Ora Project Manager Daran Buckland, MC for the evening Oscar Kightley and National Commissioner Rachel Leota.

A video on the project was created by WorkSafe to support the nomination and can be seen below: