In my blog series ‘What does…actually do?’, I (Arne Bauer) give readers an insight into the jobs that certain people at MANN+HUMMEL do. It is my job as a roving reporter to look over the shoulders of employees at the different locations in Germany. In Speyer, I followed Frank Reichert as he went about his day. As a specialist in occupational safety and environmental protection, he provides support for issues relating to employees’ health and handles emergencies with a cool head.

What does a specialist in occupational safety and environmental protection in Speyer actually do?

“Everything alright?” Frank Reichert asks the doorman behind the reception desk as he enters the MANN+HUMMEL building in Speyer every morning. “Same as always,” comes the usual response. This is because the production plant in Speyer is in the best possible position when it comes to occupational safety. “There was a time when people were considered less important than the job they were there to do,” explains Reichert. Today, however, the focus is firmly on the people and the aim is to ensure they can work safely and feel comfortable in their workplace. It all comes down to the belief that “people who enjoy their work will work more efficiently.”

From the reception, Reichert continues on to the waste area, where he collects the up-to-date waste flow figures from his colleague. “If there are any discrepancies, I head straight to Production to ask for an explanation,” says Reichert. As a specialist in occupational safety and environmental protection, he is also responsible for coordinating the ‘silent background helpers’ who keep the Speyer site in good working order.

Essential practical tests

During the morning, Timo Schmitt also knocks on the door to Frank Reichert’s office, the walls of which are adorned with yellow hard hats instead of pictures. Schmitt is a technical planner who asks for Reichert’s opinion when planning a new piece of machinery. Reichert believes that a wide range of knowledge and good common sense are the basic requirements for developing a trained eye for machinery and its user-friendliness. However, there is no substitute for a practical test: “I always try out the machines for myself because I want to understand the processes.” Occupational safety is a “construct that everyone has to work to fine-tune”. That is why the 37 year old does not see his job as fighting a battle on his own; rather he is an intermediary who provides inspiration and motivation: “The feeling of being part of a team is crucial.”

 

As well as being an expert in occupational safety, Reichert is also a specialist in environmental protection. This role involves making requests such as “we need another water meter here.” In order to be awarded environmental certification, it is necessary to comply with the stipulated requirements and provide proof of this.  This year, the EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) III validation is pending in Speyer. The requirements for this include a detailed diagram depicting all the energy flows in the plant as well as proof of ongoing improvement. Reichert is a big proponent of the idea of “global observation”, that is maintaining an “overview of the entire location”.

 

Making a difference with conviction

As a newcomer, he initially found it difficult to make his voice heard over the long-standing production staff. However he set about his work with determination because “I believe in making a difference through conviction”. He enjoys acting as an intermediary between people with different mindsets and taking on different roles, while always maintaining his focus on the employees. Today, he is well established in his role as a specialist for occupational safety and is highly influential in making everyone aware of his specialist subject. The senior members of staff in Speyer note down every injury sustained by their team in an electronic incident book. “This means incidents can be systematised more effectively and are easier to keep track of,” explains Reichert in praise of this “vital tool“. It is also important to regularly exchange ideas with colleagues around the world: “There is always more to learn, as there will always be unusual cases.”

A former metalworking foreman, Reichert’s involvement in the voluntary fire brigade whetted his appetite for his current role: “I wanted to use my experience from the fire brigade to protect the Speyer location and ensure that there was no chance whatsoever of dangerous situations even arising.” When the possibility of taking on the position at MANN+HUMMEL came up in 2006, Reichert managed to complete the challenging training required to become a specialist for occupational safety within ten months. He was also given the title of water, emissions and waste safety officer at the same time. These roles had always been kept separate before at MANN+HUMMEL in Speyer, but all aspects have now been brought together by Reichert: “There are so many overlaps and I try to make use of the synergies.” Reichert is also well prepared for the worst case scenario: “In the fire brigade, you learn to keep calm in stressful situations.”