Putting a new spin on H&S

25 Oct 2019

Mike Spekreijse 
Mike Spekreijse on his 2019 trip around Canada.  Behind is Mt Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies.


Safety advisor and trainer Mike Spekreijse came to the health and safety sector mainly due to the way it helped him in his first love of engineering.

There’s the old expression, with a slightly rude punchline, which goes:

“Prior preparation and planning prevents p***-poor performance. I learned that at BP,” Mike says.

“Put another way, better planning using health and safety as your tool is extremely useful.”

In fact, using it as a way to plan a project was, for him as an engineer, an absolute revelation. He says it enabled him to look at any engineering project, analyse where things could go wrong, and eliminate those risks.

“The process they had at BP when I first joined was using health and safety as the tool, and I had never seen that done.

“It was a planning tool that made really good business sense.”

Now based in the Manawatu with Safety Advisor Tony Greeves, Mike will also be providing H&S services in the Hawke’s Bay region.

 “The main drive in the Bay is to engage with our Site Safe members up there and to see how we can provide a good service for them.”

Engineering a career

Born and raised in Dunedin of Dutch extraction, Mike [his last name is pronounced spek-razer] did his NZ Certificate in Engineering after leaving school and then joined the Dunedin Drainage Board (now part of the Dunedin City Council).

“In those days with an NZCE you got one year of study and then you worked while you carried on studying for the certificate.”

He moved to Wellington to work for the Wellington City Council and then went to BP for seven years.

He says BP was big on continuing education and it was an enriching time where he did a graduate health and safety diploma at Massey University.

He took redundancy and became a stay-at-home dad for a year when he went back to work, this time at Victoria University as an assistant health and safety officer. Within six months a restructure saw him doing the top job but he says he missed being a project manager and moved to Foodstuffs, “where I became the pseudo health and safety person for the project management team.”

In about 2001 he did a very early version of the Building Construction Passport course at Site Safe and got the senior project management team from Foodstuffs to do it as well.

Shell bound

Then, out of the blue, he got a call from Shell asking him to apply as their H&S manager. After four years there he decided he needed more practical experience and got a transfer to Fulton Hogan (as Shell owned a third of it at the time).

“Ï was there for five and a half years and that was brilliant. I learned heaps. “That’s not to say I didn’t learn a lot at Shell – that’s where I got a real taste about health and safety systems.”

He says the big challenge for the leadership team at Fulton Hogan was standardising things across the country.

“At that time every region could have their own processes which wasn’t great. An example is the reporting systems that were in use - every region had a different system and a different system of paperwork, so we sorted that out.”

It was there that he ran the investigation into a worksite fatality.  

He had done a couple of investigations into fatal incidents at Shell so he knew the procedures but what was interesting to him was Shell’s attitude towards accidents.

He says both fatals were from vehicles hitting Shell tankers through no fault of the tanker driver.

“But Shell’s view was, ‘touch something that we own, we have to assume it’s our issue – what could we have done to help even a third party from having an accident.’”

He says he became a high-level accident investigator due to the level of training he got at Shell and the resources they put into their health and safety training. 

In particular, it was the Tripod Beta incident analysis method to look at why and how accidents happened which was developed by Shell that grounded a lot of his work. [It is a way of analysing an incident while investigating it to get a clear picture of how and why something happened and is similar to the ICAM – Incident Cause Analysis Method - Investigation Technique]

He next spent a couple of years at Hawkins where he met a few folks who are now with Site Safe such as safety advisor Ryan Groves and Customer Services group manager Andrew Confait. These contacts came in handy when his contact ended and after a chat with Central Regional Manager Jeff Strampel, he started a three-year stint with Site Safe.

Mike then moved to Wellington Water for three years before going on a self-funded sabbatical and travelled through Asia, Australia and parts of Europe on a motorbike and then started his own business.

On the road again

Before starting back at Site Safe in August this year he got on a motorbike again, traipsing across Canada and a bit of Alaska for a couple of months, going down the back roads and distant highways.

It’s adventure touring on a major scale, made a bit more adventurous by the addition of moose and bears making the occasional appearance during the 20,000k trip.

He met up with some Kiwis and a Norwegian and they rode together along the Dempster Highway and some dirt roads up to the Arctic Ocean.

Back in NZ he rides a Kawasaki KLE 500, though he’s thinking of getting a bit of an upgrade. He might be able to make use of his two sons to help with that.  One is about to complete a double major at Canterbury University in electrical engineering and physics, and the other is in the Netherlands finishing his degree in rocket engineering.

Sounds like the perfect family match to come up with a fairly meaty machine.