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AIRM Annual Site Visit Risk Manager

By Stephen Heffernan, Secretary AIRM

AIRM as an Organisation are constantly seeking information for our members about areas of risk which do not always fall into the “norm�. We also take a field trip each year to a location where our members get to see first hand an unusual or interesting site which can present many of the risks our members deal in and where possible all in one location. This year was no exception and 19 of our members had an opportunity to visit Wheatfield Prison in Clondalkin and get a full tour of the facility. Having worked in this Institution for 12 years before my retirement, I was able to arrange the visit. We are happy to say 19 went in and 19 came out, they did not keep anyone! We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Prison authorities, all the staff and in particular Governor John Farrell and Chief Officer Edwards for their hospitality and courtesy on this most informative trip. Wheatfield Prison was built in 1998 to house 320 inmates and today the complex houses 700 after an extensive building and expansion programme. The prison houses all categorises of inmates serving sentences from a month right up to life. There are approximately 30 committals to the Prison everyday and these might come form the courts or transfers from other Prisons. This in itself poses several risk and the largest one being that of an escape during transportation. Risks such as this and the management of same we were not privy to for operational reasons, however we were given some small insight into the problems associated with receiving committals. These ranged from gang affiliations, medical assessments and emotional and psychological issues which could arise particularly with new inmates. The Prison Health Care team includes full time doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, optician, dentists and fully qualified nurses, other healthcare professionals are brought in if necessary and inmates also attend clinics in the various public hospitals when necessary. There is a large emphasis on work and training for the inmates. This includes

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an education unit with fully qualified teaching staff which caters for courses right up to and including 3rd level degree programmes and Open University. The work programmes for the inmates include construction, joinery, welding, horticulture & cookery. The prison has a fully equipped laundry to cater for all it’s laundry needs. The job of co-ordinating and managing all

The Prison systems and procedures are constantly undergoing risk assessments both in the workshop areas and the security operations. of this is the function of almost 400 staff from the different disciplines operating in the prison ranging from security, education and healthcare. For a complex this size there is also a large maintenance programme to manage and this is done by a number of specialist Prison staff and complimented then by contracted staff brought in. All contractors have to have a background security screening check done before being allowed operate inside the prison. On arrival at the main gate of the prison we soon became conscious of the fact we were entering a secure environment. We had to leave our mobile phones, memory sticks and cameras behind plus we had to undergo a full security screening process before entering the institution. The prison Authorities in Ireland fight a daily battle to keep drugs and other contraband out of the Institutions and one weapon in the

fight is the searching procedure which is extremely thorough. Sniffer dogs are also utilised as part of the fight against drugs. No one is exempt from this screening, not even the Governors. The Prison systems and procedures are constantly undergoing risk assessments both in the workshop areas and the security operations. A comprehensive reporting policy exists right through the system from accident reporting right up to incident investigations. Staff training is carried out on an ongoing basis and OHSAS 18001 is soon to be rolled out. During the tour we also got to see how the monitoring and management of fire incidents are handled. From sophisticated smoke detection and extraction systems right through to evacuation procedures. It was interesting to note the differences in how evacuating people from a hotel for e.g. can differ greatly to evacuating people who are locked in cells and still need to be brought to a safe area away from the smoke. Because of the construction specifications and materials used in Prisons, large or widespread fires are relatively unknown but smoke can be a big issue. This is managed by utilising fire retardant and inflammable material where possible, a sophisticated sprinkler system and of course a very powerful smoke extraction system. The tour also brought us through the Kitchen area and after we were suitably attired we got some insight into how they managed to provide meals for 700 people four times a day and still maintain good quality and nutritional values in the food. A high degree of food hygiene was particularly noticeable and indeed the Prison has won many awards in this area. Overall it was a very enjoyable insightful and interesting visit and the reports and feedback afterwards from members were very positive. Once again we would like to thank the Governor and all his staff for this most unique and interesting opportunity.

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