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Safety Solutions - changing times

By Neil Ritchie

New Plymouth’s Safety Solutions has changed a lot in the past five years. What started out as essentially a father-and-son team of two has now diversified and grown in the number of sectors it services, the number of clients it has, both here and overseas, and the number and variety of staff it employs.

And its specialist engineering and management skills mean it works with operating and engineering companies, establishing and then monitoring their process safety programmes to the highest possible standards – something that will always be in demand.

Founder Colin Feltoe is now semi-retired while his son Paul is managing director, though he does not believe in the usual hierarchical system of running a business. “It’s not the usual ‘boss and the workers’, rather we are motivated as a team and that includes part ownership for some staff; everybody is part of this tight team environment,” says Paul (43).

Safety Solutions’ process safety consulting services span advisory, facilitation, management support and design services across a number of process safety disciplines. “We specialise in the auditing of process safety performance, facilitation of engineering safety reviews and the development of management procedures. Running alongside the consulting is a healthy training business” he adds.

And the three company directors -- Paul Feltoe, Ross Benton and Peter Hewett – complement each other, specialising in different areas of process safety.

Paul trained as a chemical engineer and is now responsible for day-to-day operations, process safety consulting and safety cases. Ross trained as a control systems engineer and currently has overall responsible for business development, functional safety and alarm management. Peter trained as a mechanical engineer and has overall responsibility for safety management systems.

And they travel around Taranaki and New Zealand on a regular basis -- even overseas at times. Their clientele span all major industrial sectors including oil and gas, dairy, geothermal, power, pulp and paper and chemicals.

Paul holds the majority of shares (69 percent) in the company, while Ross Benton holds 10 percent, and Peter Hewett another 10%. The other shares are held by staff within the company, including Catharina Grant who joined the company as a chemical engineering graduate 3 years ago.

Safety Solutions still works for the oil and gas sector in Taranaki, though the amount of work has declined since the worldwide oil price slump started in 2015. However, it still does work for such energy companies such as Shell Taranaki, TAG Oil, Greymouth Petroleum and   Queensland’s Westside Corporation.

“We have a long history with the other sectors in New Zealand such as dairy, pulp and paper, and power sectors, including geothermal, with the electricity work including Meridian Energy hydro power plants in the South Island.

“And geothermal is now big business in New Zealand with geothermal plants in Taupo, Kawerau and Northland,” Paul adds.

Safety Solutions also now has some overseas clients, with the main focus being the Middle East, particularly Iran, and sometimes South-East Asia.

The company also has a much more diversified staff than when Colin set up Safety Solutions in 1993. There are now a total of 10 staff, with two being Iranian engineers – “I am very impressed with their work ethic,” says Paul.

As well as the Kiwis in the New Plymouth office, there is an Aussie man, a French woman, and the Iranians.

Paul is also a renowned long-distance swimmer, having recently completed one of the so-called Ocean's Seven -- the Catalina Channel off the coast of Los Angeles. The others are also marathon open-water swims in Cook Strait, the North Channel (between Ireland and Scotland), the the Molokai Channel in Hawaii, the English Channel,  the Tsugaru Strait in Japan and the Strait of Gibraltar off southern Spain.

And he says the same philosophy – persistence and perseverance -- also applies to the Safety Solutions business. “Sometimes things do not work out as you had hoped but you press on . . . we have certainly moved ahead a lot in the past five years.”


Safety Solutions directors (from left) Paul Feltoe, Peter Hewett and Ross Benton