Road Metals picked up four IoQ awards at the 2016 QuarryNZ Conference in Blenheim, including one for health and safety. Peter Owens updates the company’s profile.
Christchurch-based Road Metals (1994) started as the North Otago Road Metal Company in 1955 and was originally based in Oamaru.
The company was founded by Stan Francis who spent the profits from a rabbiting business on a 1939 Dodge one-ton truck. His contracting business started to flourish from 1974 when it won a Ministry of Works tender to supply aggregates (750,000 tonnes of filter sand and 650,000 tonnes of concrete aggregate) for the giant hydro-electric power project at Twizel.
Then came the Clyde Dam project and since then Road Metals has produced sand and aggregates for all five of the major hydropower schemes in the South Island.
At the height of the dam building era, between 1985 and 1987, the company was the single largest processor of gravel in the country. It supplied three million tonnes of sand and aggregate for the Clyde Dam alone, plus screened and disposed of six million tonnes of material excavated from the Clutha River near Clyde.
Since then Road Metals has supplied filter materials to OceanaGold at its Macraes and Reefton mines; supplied all of the sand aggregate and filter materials for the Opuha Dam project; and processed 200,000 metres of gravel for the second Manapouri Tailrace Tunnel.
These days Road Metals has permanent quarry sites at Clyde, Wanaka, Dunedin, Hyde, Oamaru, Twizel and Christchurch. It also has mobile crushing operations at a number of council consented river-based sites.
“My passion and belief in Road Metals is as strong today as it was when I joined my father’s operation as a driver in 1970,” says managing director Murray Francis, who still has a hands-on approach to operating the company.
“My management team and I have come through the ranks and are very familiar with every aspect of our business. It is our passion and there isn’t an operational situation we haven’t experienced. Our business has been based around hard work, integrity, and just plain getting the job done.”
Murray says Road Metals’ strength lies in being able to supply aggregate anywhere in the South Island through mobile crushing and its reputation for being able to operate in remote areas.
He has noticed a slight slowing in the industry as Christchurch re-build work draws towards completion and his company will be keeping a steady-as-she-goes stance for some time yet.
Murray was over the moon when Road Metals picked up four IoQ awards (for engineering, operations, leadership, and health and safety practice) at the 2016 QuarryNZ Conference in Blenheim. They included the Winstone Aggregates Safety Award.
“Health and safety was the one we really wanted to win and we were thrilled,” he says.
The company developed its own handbook on health and safety in the workplace and employed an experienced health and safety overseer, Amanda Burke, who is originally from Ireland.
Murray Francis says while other people have been in the H&S role at Road Metals, Amanda is the first full time H&S officer. “When Amanda started as our H&S manager, I explained I didn’t want a policeman. I wanted someone who could achieve employee participation and she has exceeded my expectations.”
After three years in a similar role with a large Australian company, she has imported some of her learnings to the multiple sites she now oversees and to the 120 Road Metals’ staff working from north of Christchurch to Oamaru and across to Central Otago.
“Amanda works with Don Parker, our Rolleston Quarry manager, and it was the both of them who won us the safety award. Everything that Amanda does she runs it passed Don who is our ‘practical’ man on site. They worked as a team and both have contributed immensely to our health and safety programme and performance.”
General monthly toolbox safety meetings are held on every site with a focus on a specific H&S subject such as safe driving practices, blind spots, and even the need to have fire extinguishers at hand if doing welding or grinding.
Forms are available at these meetings for staff to make direct and confidential contact with Amanda if they feel uncomfortable raising workplace issues.
“We also stress the importance of letting us know about minor things because the next time it could be more serious,” says Amanda.
“And we are getting hazards being reported, so that’s encouraging.”
She sees the legislation as providing the reinforcement for a necessary attitudinal and awareness change in this country when it comes to workplace practices.
“Most people don’t know that they are doing anything wrong. We need to work with them so they can get it right.”