The 2018 health and safety contest, awarded by the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the Raw Materials and Chemical Industry (BG RCI), Heidelberg/Germany, received 225 entries from 522 men and women across Germany. In recognition of their top ideas for safe working environments, 31 winners from nine different companies were presented with the BG RCI VISION ZERO sponsorship prize (Figure 1). The prize was split into eight categories and each award is presented with a cash prize of 10,000 €. A further 14 nomination awards come with a cheque for 1,000 €.
The sponsorship prize awarded by the BG RCI is the highest-value award for occupational safety in Germany, and was presented on 15th June 2018 inside the Kaisersaal in Erfurt. The prize is awarded to individuals and goes straight to the innovative thinkers in the companies. In the years since 1997, more than 13,500 people from over 4,000 companies have entered the competition with approximately 6,700 ideas.
During the awards ceremony, Christian Pfaff, alternating Chairman of the BG RCI Representative Assembly, praised the competition entrants as the “standard bearers of VISION ZERO” (Figure 2). They pursued the same prevention strategy as the BG RCI, whose goal is to ensure that work-related deaths, illnesses and life-changing injuries should become a thing of the past. Pfaff stressed that “Through your ideas, you have all contributed towards making workplaces safer and healthier environments, which, in turn, prevent human suffering, reduce production losses and save money.”
In his closing speech, Christoph Hommertgen, Chairman of the Representative Assembly, encouraged guests to incorporate the ideas into their businesses and to “get people in the workplace excited about the sponsorship prize, about implementing the collated ideas and about the discussions that these trigger”.
The sponsorship prize in the safety technology category went to two colleagues from WEC Turmbau Emden GmbH. They developed special rod-shaped tools that could be used to safely attach and detach precast concrete components to and from cranes’ lifting hooks while remaining at ground level. This removes the need for hazardous work up ladders, while also representing a huge time saving.
One employee at Bielkine Sattlerei, an upholstery company in Hannover, discovered they had a severe latex allergy. This problem was resolved by setting aside an entirely separate space for working with latex. A sliding curtain of heavy duty tarpaulin material can now be used to create a separate “airtight” zone. Parallel to that, all latex-based materials were sealed inside airtight packaging (entire seats, new and old material stocks and even scraps). As a result of this idea, seven employees were awarded the sponsorship prize for the small and medium enterprises (SME) category.
Grinding the edges of parquet floors generally involves the use of handheld grinding machines while adopting a kneeling or crouching position. Doing this intensely over long periods of time can result in occupational illnesses. Two employees at Kammerer GmbH, Remchingen, developed an ergonomically designed low-weight grinding tool that can be used in a standing position. In recognition of their invention, they were awarded the sponsorship prize for the category of occupational health and safety.
At EHL AG, or more specifically at their sites in Kruft, Neu-Bamberg and Kindsbach, numerous sections of the plant are connected by control technologies. When it comes to maintenance work, this makes it difficult to isolate the necessary sections of the plant, without interrupting the entire process. To make this task easier, four members of staff developed an interactive exercise board for hands-on training. This educational idea earned them the sponsorship prize in the organisation category.
When the tie-down straps on a truck tear and cause the load to slip, it can, in the worst cases, cause the vehicle to overturn or cause the load to spill on the road. Three members of the workforce at Fabri Planen GmbH & Co. KG, in Finnentrop, developed a steel strap that is integrated into the curtain itself to reinforce the fabric and prevent such accidents. This TÜV-accredited product won the road safety category.
When moving pipes and shafts with a forklift truck, there is a risk that the parts being transported can fall off and roll away when the operative drives around corners, brakes or traverses uneven ground. The apprentices at the Hahnstätten plant of Schaefer Kalk GmbH & Co. KG developed a retaining device for shafts and pipes, which is mounted on to the fork arms and holds the pipes in place. For their endeavours, they received the award for the apprentice category.
Severe cuts and injuries to the hands, caused by moving and unprotected parts of meat processing machines, prompted the development of a special glove with a “built-in contact function”. When the glove, woven with silver thread, comes into contact with dangerous machine parts, the entire machine stops. An employee from Seiz Industriehandschuhe GmbH, Metzingen, and another from NOCK Maschinenbau GmbH, Friesenheim, received the product category award for their roles in this invention.
The only hazards that can be tackled are those that employees themselves perceive as hazards. In light of this, Essity Operations Mannheim GmbH set out to improve the hazard perception of as many employees as possible. This is why they developed a training course that combines the theoretical background of hazard perception and risk assessment with lots of hands-on exercises taken from everyday work. This saw three members of staff awarded the sponsorship prize in the prevention culture category.
To download more detailed descriptions and short films about the awards, visit www.bgrci-foerderpreis.de (German only).