Meet our team

Our team consists of highly trained technical, training and support staff who provide research, testing, engineering, scientific and training services to enhance industry safety and health outcomes.

Meet our Executive Director, Nicolai Ahlstrand

Nicholai Ahlstrand

Nicolai Ahlstrand has over 15 years experience in professional services, primarily delivering projects in the minerals sector. This includes 10 years experience in senior management roles in project delivery, safety and health management, operations and governance. He has had significant involvement in the successful delivery of major mining industry sector projects across the east and west coasts of Australia.

He brings project and engineering management expertise, coupled with commercial and operations acumen, to his role at Simtars. He is passionate about the work Simtars does, due to the industry safety and health benefits it provides.

Qualifications and affiliations  

  • Bachelor of Applied Science, Queensland University of Technology
  • Master of Business Administration, University of Queensland
  • Company Directors Course, Australian Institute of Company Directors
  • Executive Education: Leading Strategic Growth & Change, Columbia Business School
  • Graduate Member, Australian Institute of Company Directors
  • Member, Australian Institute of Project Management
  • Member, Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
  • Certified Practicing Project Director, Australian Institute of Project Management

Meet our technical experts

Meet our highly trained technical staff who deliver quality services to clients across and broad range of industries.

Martin Watkinson, Executive Mining Engineer

Martin Watkinson

Martin is a highly competent technical manager and underground coal mining engineer. He has a wide experience of operational conditions, production, project management, emergency response and risk management as well as 7 years experience as an international consultant and 10 years at Simtars.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • BSc Mining
  • TAE40110 Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training
  • MMME7034 Minerals Industry Risk Analysis
  • MNC.U151.A Establish Mine Emergency Preparedness and Response Systems
  • MNC.U152.Implement Mine Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans
  • RIIRIS601A Establish and Maintain the Risk Management System (G3)
  • RIIOHS601A Establish and Maintain the OHS System (G7)
  • Member of AusIMM

Nikky LaBranche, Principal Mining Engineer

Nikky Labranche

Nikky is a bright and energetic registered professional engineer with 10 years experience in mining engineering. She has a solid background in health and safety research, plan optimisation and feasibility studies and a diverse range of research interests including real-time monitoring of respirable dust, self-escape, built-in-place shelters and emergency response.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Bachelor of Science (Mining & Minerals Engineering), Virginia Tech
  • MBA (Finance), University of Alabama, Birmingham
  • Registered Professional Engineer Queensland- Board of Professional Engineers Queensland
  • Chartered Professional, AusIMM
  • Project Management Professional, Project Management Institute
  • Vice-Chair, AusIMM Southern Queensland Branch

Dr Snezana Bajic, Technical Services Manager

Dr Snezana Bajic

Snezana was appointed as Principal Scientific Advisor of Simtars in 2014. Snezana has 15 years of mining and mineral processing experience in Australia and overseas, ranging from base metal and coal processing operations, safety, emergency response, risk management and risk assessment and research (Simtars). She was previously involved in industrial applications of automated mineral liberation analysers, QEMSCAN/MLA systems, research (UQ and overseas), processing plant safety audits and other mineral processing (flotation and comminution) consulting projects. Snezana was responsible for executing projects on many mine sites in Australia, USA, Serbia, Canada, China and Turkey. Snezana is currently in charge of looking after the mine emergency response unit, Safegas and CAMGAS mine support.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering (Mining Engineer of Mineral Processing)
  • PhD Mineral Processing, University of Queensland
  • AusIMM Southern Queensland Branch Board member

Dr Gareth Kennedy, Director, Mine Safety Technology Research Centre

Dr Gareth Kennedy

Gareth and his team are responsible for providing mine technical support services, consulting, research and development for the industry. Gareth has 15 years of experience working in both the coal and hard rock mining. He has held public and private sector roles in Australia and the UK, and in managing large-scale research projects. He has particular expertise in mining safety technology, mining automation systems, underground communications, energy management systems, instrumentation and telemetry.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) Electronic Engineering
  • PhD, Mining Engineering
  • Member of the Institute of Engineering (MIET)
  • Member of the Camborne School of Mines (MCSM)

Andre De Kock, Research Manager

Andre De Kock

André has over 30 years of experience working in coal mining safety research, particularly in systems testing, design, installation and explosion protection techniques. André and his team are currently engaged in a number of research projects and complex technical investigations. André is responsible for coordinating new research projects, developing new technologies, disseminating knowledge and developing new products. Prior to joining Simtars, he worked for the Chamber of Mines of South Africa Research Organisation and CSIR Miningtek for 17 years.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical and Electronic Engineering)
  • Masters of Engineering (Electronic Engineering)
  • MDP (Business), University of South Africa

David Phipps, Development Manager

David Phipps

David is a knowledgeable and dedicated management, international sales and marketing professional with nearly 10 years of experience across various industries. He seeks to bring his dynamic, results-driven professional and technical skills to add value to an organisation.

Mike Lewis, HAZMAT Services Manager

Mike Lewis

Micheal has worked in the health and safety fields for 27 years and has held public and private sectors roles in Australia and New Zealand. He has particular experience in designing, implementing and auditing chemicals management systems, conducting complex health based investigations, compliance auditing, project management and training package development and delivery. Micheal supervises the combustible dust and spontaneous combustion laboratories in addition to his research and development role at MSTRC.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Diploma of Comprehensive Nursing (Dip.Comp.Nursing)
  • Bachelor Degree in Occupational Health and Safety (B.App.Sc.OHS)
  • Graduate Certificate in Industrial Hygiene Science (Grad.Cert.Ind.Hyg.Sc)
  • Qualifications in Training and Assessment, Management Systems Auditing and Hazardous Areas Classifications.

David Turner, Technical Director

David Turner

David and his team are responsible for the testing and certification of electrical equipment used in hazardous environments such as underground coal mines and the certification of service facilities that conduct repairs and overhauls of explosion protected equipment. David has also had extensive experience in the electricity supply industry.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Bachelor of Engineering (1st class honours)
  • Master of Engineering Science
  • Master of Business Administration.
  • Director, National Association of Testing Authorities Australia
  • Councillor representing Engineers Australia, Standards Australia
  • Member Queensland Engineering Branch Committee, Engineers Australia
  • Member of several technical committees, Standards Australia
  • Member Management Committee, Ex Technical Association Inc.

Bipin Parmar, Principal Engineer

Bipin Parmar

Bipin has over 30 years experience in electrical engineering and commenced his career with Industrial Control Services (ICS) in the UK as a test engineer involving design of large emergency shutdown systems for the oil and gas industries. He has experience in on-shore and off-shore installation and commissioning of emergency fire and gas shutdown systems. He is involved in product certification, auditing and Ex training for hazardous areas. He has also conducted investigations on equipment failure and has assisted the coal mines and petroleum and gas inspectorate in their investigations.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Bachelor of Engineering and Computing, Queensland University of Technology.
  • Metrology Society of Australasia
  • Standards Australia committees ET-006-01, EL-014-04 and EL014-23
  • International Electrotechnical Commission Committees
  • International Electrotechnical Commission Ex committees
  • JAS-ANZ ANZEx certification committee

Geoff Barnier, Principal Engineer

Geoff Barnier

Geoff has over 27 years in explosion protection assessment, testing and certification. Geoff currently manages and issues the IECEx and ANZEx certificates, and schedules the audits for maintaining the certificates issued by Simtars. Geoff is also a Simtars auditor and active member of national and international committees for maintaining explosion protection standards and certification schemes.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Bachelor of Technology (Electrical and Electronic Engineering)
  • Metrology Society of Australasia
  • Standards Australia committees ET-006-01, EL-014-04 and EL014-23
  • International Electrotechnical Commission Committees
  • International Electrotechnical Commission Ex committees
  • JAS-ANZ ANZEx certification committee

Gunter Lenicek, Senior Engineer

Gunter Lenicek

Gunter has over 23 years experience in the design and development of explosion protected electronic equipment and intrinsically safe systems used in mining and surface industries. He is also an experienced auditor of QMS and IECEx product quality systems. In his role at Simtars, Gunter liaises with industry on the design and implementation of intrinsically safe apparatus and systems. Before joining Simtars, he held private and public sector roles in organisations such as with the South African Bureau of Standards and SGS South Africa.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Bachelor of Technology (Electrical Engineering Light Current)
  • Certified ISO 9001 Lead Auditor

Paul Chant, Director, Occupational Hygiene, Environment and Chemistry Centre

Paul Chant

Paul has over 16 years experience consulting to industry on air quality assessments and gas process chemistry. Paul specialises in atmospheric contaminants, air quality monitoring assessments, occupational exposure, dust management, equipment recommendations and industrial plant emissions evaluations. Clients rely on his current knowledge of Australian and global standards and trends to provide timely advice on occupational exposure, managing environmental risk and compliance.

Paul has commissioned and deployed mine blast monitoring networks and over 85 air quality monitoring programs in Australia and overseas. He has also designed and implemented critical control points for gas production facilities to provide operators with essential QA/ QC information.

Paul is a project manager and a technical lead for occupational exposure and atmospheric contaminant release assessments. He provides organisations with the necessary data and information to enable them to protect the safety of their staff, and minimise workplace health risks.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Grad. Dip. Occupational Health & Safety, ADAC
  • CASANZ, AIOH

Greg Manthey, Principal Occupational Health and Hygiene Specialist

Greg Manthey

Greg is a Certified Occupational Hygienist with over 15 years’ hands-on experience. Working as Simtars Principal Occupational Health and Hygiene Specialist since 2009, he manages Simtars Hygiene Group and the delivery of of NATA accredited occupational hygiene services across Queensland, interstate and internationally.

Greg is the Technical Lead for the Redbank and Mackay offices. He is a NATA signatory for all Simtars occupational hygiene services and has been invited by NATA to train as a NATA Chemical Testing Technical Assessor in the field of Workplace Environment and Hazards – Sampling.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Bachelor of Health Science (Occupational Health & Safety) with Distinction

Craig Tayler, Director, Training, Testing and Certification Centre

Craig Tayler

Craig is a Certified Occupational Hygienist with 13 years’ experience. He is a NATA signatory for all occupational hygiene test reports.

Craig is a subject matter expert in occupational hygiene and provides strategic advice about anticipating and eliminating adverse health outcomes for workers.

Craig has extensive experience designing, implementing and evaluating occupational hygiene management systems and exposure assessment programs for clients within Australia and internationally. He utilises contemporary internationally accepted standards and risk management models to continuously improve safety and health within mining and industry and in both public and private business settings.

Craig also provides high level technical advice and complex technical reports and correspondence to industry, government and the community.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Master of Science in Occupational Hygiene Practice

Deborah Van Zanten, Senior Occupational Hygienist

Deborah Van Zanten

Deborah develops and conducts occupational hygiene exposure assessments for external clients across a broad range of hazards, including:

  • airborne contaminants
  • indoor air quality (including biological hazards)
  • noise
  • whole body vibration
  • asbestos
  • chemicals

She is a NATA signatory for all occupational hygiene test reports.

Qualifications and affiliations

  • Bachelor of Applied Science (OHS)

Meet our trainers

Our highly regarded trainers have extensive experience in mining and other industries and are passionate about fostering health and safety and good workplace practices.

Paul Shorthouse

Paul Shorthouse

Paul has used his trade qualifications in mechanical engineering in a wide range of industries, including mining, heavy industry and power generation.

Paul obtained his training and assessment qualifications in 1992 and since then has trained and assessed students in the areas of mechanical engineering and health and safety. He has also functioned as a site safety health representative and presenter in a number of industries, and has delivered training to international work forces and mining inspectorates from Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, Laos, Ghana, India and China.

Holding a position as a Queensland/Northern Territory councillor for the Australian Institute of Training and Development has given Paul the opportunity to not only assist other training professionals but to learn, network and share ideas and philosophies to enrich vocational education in the mining industry. He has spoken about the benefits of virtual reality immersive learning to the Queensland mining health and safety industry, the mining electrical safety industry, international government representatives and international mining companies.

Paul has been a Senior Training Officer for Simtars for 2 years and delivers health, safety and risk management training. Paul was previously the director of his own contract training company.

Robbie Hogg

Robbie Hogg

Robbie has been involved in the mining industry for more than 40 years. Starting out as a general hand in Scotland, he progressed through various mining roles before moving to Australia by way of South Africa.

In Australia he has held varied roles in the mining industry, ranging from mine planner to contracts manager, and has been involved developing quality assurance and safety training manuals and processes. Robbie rates his work developing and implementing the Australian Standard AS/NZS 3901 for quality assurance and the BHP Generic Induction package as his most significant achievements to date.

Robbie continues to work as an independent contractor and occasionally undertakes work for companies such as OHSA, AXIAL, CCS and NSCA when not involved with Simtars.

He is a member of the Australasian Quality Society, a qualified safety/quality auditor and a safety inspector.

He has a passion for training and endeavours to tailor his training to suit his students' needs. He is dedicated to ensuring that all students leave his classroom with a strong commitment to workplace safety.

Nev Kathage

Nev Kathage

Nev has more than 40 years of mining industry experience, including 15 years in underground coal, 10 years as a coal mine deputy (ERZ controller) and 5 years as a coal face production miner.

He has also worked in open-cut mines, open-cut dredging operations and coal-handling preparation plants; operated dozers and loaders at mine sites and power stations; and acted as a site safety and health representative at an underground mine for 10 years. Nev has provided contract training and consulting services to a number of registered training organisations in the Brisbane and Gold Coast regions.

Nev has been associated with Simtars for nearly 20 years, where he keeps abreast of changes in mining techniques and mine safety through regular mine site visits; work in Simtars' Mining Research and Development Centre; mine safety training; and regular discussions with the mines inspectors as well as Simtars' occupational hygiene and safety staff.

Nev is passionate about mine safety and health and delivers mine inductions, mine site safety and health representative courses, and risk management courses.