At the 1995 conference in Auckland Andy was presented with a Motor Holdings Komatsu Award for services to the IoQ.
In the second of our veteran series, Alan Titchall talks to
Andy Loader from First Rock Consultancy about his long and
involved career in the quarry industry and with health and safety.
What was your intro to the extraction industry?
My father did contract work for Tappers Quarry when I was younger and we had a lot of contact with its manager, Peter Dickson, for many years. My own introduction to the extractive industry came through Ivan Raos, who was one of my football coaches many years ago. And, for what it is worth, I am told that some of my ancestors were stone masons, so maybe there is some connection in my genes.
First job and career path?
My first job when I left school was working for the NZ Post and Telegraph (P&T) where I started as apprentice linesman and qualified up to senior foreman level. I left the P&T and travelled to Australia and spent some time driving over there, before coming home and starting in the quarrying industry in the early 1970s.
This was after running into Ivan Raos when I returned and mentioning I was looking for a job. He recommended his employer, Ivan Whale Ltd. I went up to the Panama Road Quarry the next day and was given a job driving a tip truck doing deliveries from the quarry.
When the Panama Rd Quarry finished, we moved out to Greenmount quarry and I had a bit of a disagreement over pay rates with the new management of the company and left. I was later proved to be right and all us drivers received some back-pay.
I then went to work at Steel & Tube, left there and went back to Australia.
When I arrived back home for the second time Ivan arranged for me to get a job at Puketutu Island Quarry as a bin truck driver/labourer.
Over the next couple of years I achieved my quarry manager’s certificate, shotfirers certificate, and A Grade managers certificate.
In my time at Puketutu, I was taught the basics of quarrying by the late Buck Hohaia, the quarry foreman, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to him for always being available and taking the time to give some advice to a newbie.
When I left Puketutu Island Quarry I went to work for Keith Niederer at Neiderer Machinery, helping to refurbish the second hand crushers that he bought, or traded, and checked over the Chinese crushers he imported before they were delivered to customers.
When I finished with Neiderers I spent a short time working at Puhinui Scoria and then went on to accept the quarries manager position with Manukau City Council – managing its four quarries.
When I finished at the Manukau City Council I moved into the Mining Inspection Group within the Ministry of Commerce as an inspector of quarries in the Auckland/Northland region.
When the Mining Inspection Group was transferred to the Department of Labour I did not go along with the transfer, and at that time I set up my consultancy business (First Rock Consultancy).
My consultancy work was mainly around quarry management planning and training and assessment under the NZQA system.
I am semi-retired now. I do a little bit of training for CPD purposes and I have now fully retired from my assessor position with MITO and also from my test certifiers role with Worksafe NZ.
I am still working as quarry manager for the Woodhill Group at its Woodhill forest sand extraction site, as quarry manager for the NZDF quarries at Waiouru during its intermittent operations, and as quarry manager for Kenana Road Quarry at Manganui.
Please elaborate on your involvement in health and safety?
I achieved registration as an NZSC Registered Safety Professional in 2004 and had been a foundation member of the New Zealand Safety Council, serving on its board from its inception in 2002 and elected its CEO in 2013 – a position that I held until I retired in 2018.
I was also a foundation member of the board of HASANZ (Health and Safety Association of New Zealand) and was its NZSC representative until my retirement from the CEO position.
In my time in the Mining Inspectorate, I qualified as a safety auditor under the DNV International Safety Rating System in November 1996. In December 2002 I also gained accreditation through the NZSC as a safety auditor under QSA (Quality Standards Australia).
I was one of the first assessors registered with NZQA for the Extractive Industries Training Organisation (EXITO) and for many years I was a member of the Extractive Sector Advisory Group for EXITO.
I was appointed as a member of the new mining industry board of examiners when it was set up again in response to the Royal Commission of enquiry into the Pike River Coal Mine tragedy.
Career highlights and low points?
When I look back on my career there are many highlights but, if I had to pick a particular one it would be the many quarry managers out there today who have been part of my training courses.
Other highlights must include joining the Institute of Quarrying in 1982 at the urging of my boss, the late George Cunningham, and serving on the Auckland branch committee from 1983 through to 1996.
I was elected to the IoQ National Executive in 1984; become its National Deputy Chairman in 1989, and National Chairman in 1991. I was also on the IoQ National Conference Executive in 1983; was conference chairman in 1989 and again at the 1995 National Conference IOQ & Quarrying and Contracting Exhibition.
I would also include among my career highlights was achieving my Diploma in Quarry Management in 1994 and being the top student. I was also awarded an Honorary Fellowship to the Institute of Quarrying in 2005; achieved a Diploma in Occupational Safety & Health in 2013, and was elected as the CEO of the New Zealand Safety Council in the same year.
Among the low points was, without a doubt, the number of fatalities that I had to investigate as an inspector, and the decision to transfer the Mining Inspection Group to the Department of Labour – which in my opinion was directly responsible for the conditions that allowed the Pike River tragedy to happen.
I also have to note the lack of industry support in opposing the transfer of the Mining Inspectorate to Department of Labour. And, the lack of industry opposition over the merger of EXITO into MITO and eventually the loss of a large amount of intellectual property that had been gifted to EXITO from the IoQ.
Reflections on extraction past and present
When I look back at the industry, it was largely made up of small operators and staffed by people who were good with machinery and hands-on with the operation of that machinery, and often with lesser abilities with pen and paper.
Many of those staff started as young people working in quarries after school, or during the holidays, or they were family of quarry operators. The training and certification of those staff was mainly based around demonstrating practical ability and oral assessment of theoretical knowledge.
Most of these smaller operations only required a B Grade quarry manager certification and these certificates were awarded by the local inspector of quarries after an oral assessment and demonstration of practical skills.
The reliance on practical skills was not such a problem in the earlier times as, with the smaller size of the operations, most of the new employees would be under the direct control of an experienced operator. When it came to the certification of new quarry managers, the process fell under the local quarry inspector who would have a working knowledge of the candidates from their regular inspections of the quarry site.
The industry has changed with larger quarry operations with more mechanisation and fewer staff who spend much of their time working in relative isolation.
Training and certification now relies on written assessments of operational knowledge, which has led to many ‘hands-on’ candidates with less written skills bypassing the quarrying industry as it was ‘too hard’.
This shift in assessment methodology is, in my opinion, the result of a lack of contact between quarry inspectors and quarry staff, and fewer quarry visits.
I also believe there is too much focus on extraction health and safety legislation in the assessments over Quarry Managers Certificate and not enough reference to practical quarrying skills as there used to be with the A Grade Certificate under the old Quarries and Tunnels Act 1982.
Would you do it all again?
I have been lucky to have worked with, and been taught by, some very good people with excellent quarrying skills. I have also been lucky through both my work choices and through my membership of different organisations, to have travelled around most of the country visiting a large percentage of our quarries and mines, and travelled around sites in Australia and the Pacific.
I have found over my career that the industry is by-and-large populated by good buggers who will go out of their way to help others any time they are asked.
When I first started, most quarries were very insular and didn’t go out of their way to advertise what they did or how they did it. Nowadays, I am pleased to say that most companies will gladly welcome you onto their site (as long as you arrange a time to visit before you turn up) and give you a tour of their operations.
Quarrying is an industry that is critical to our way of life – past, present, and future – it is one that I got into by chance and, if I had my career over again knowing then what I know now, I would be happy to make the same choice again.
I have had a great career in this industry, met many wonderful people and had the support of a number of organisations that have added greatly to my experiences over my career.
Most importantly, I have had the support of my wife and family over the years which allowed me the opportunity to travel and achieve many of the highlights of my career.