The helpers in the background


Our laser safety officer Jürgen Lang keeps an eye on the safety of the corresponding welding machines

GEALAN currently provides around 70 so-called operations officers at its two German locations. Why? Although the prevention of various hazards is in each company's own interest, it is required by law to additionally appoint special authorized persons. Among other things, these are intended to avoid or at least reduce the environmental impact of the companies, and also to eliminate sources of risk and danger as much as possible. Such a bundling of expertise has proven its worth. However, the commissioners often perform their responsible tasks in a hardly visible way, usually in addition to the actual jobs.

Data protection officers, security officers, IT security officers, first responders – the list is long. These are among the better-known agents and are now a matter of course in all larger companies. Your task: to support your company and all employees, to comply with standards, to avoid possible hazards for the company, the environment and people, and thus to enable safe working. And ultimately, also to meet legal requirements.  

However, the operations representatives are not employed in this function in the company, but ensure safety and smooth processes in addition to their actual tasks. They are supported by selected helpers in their areas. 

Jürgen Lang has been a laser safety officer at GEALAN for around 15 years. Actually, he is a trained precision mechanic and has been working for GEALAN for more than 30 years in iron production in Oberkotzau's toolmaking department, for many years as a shift supervisor. "I don't work as a laser safety officer every day," he explains, "but there are times when it happens more often. For example, when the annual training is due, or when we train new employees on the laser safety systems, or new systems are purchased from certain laser protection classes." Two laser welding machines with protection class 4, which require a laser safety officer, are currently located in Oberkotzau. Jürgen Lang has to keep an eye not only on the systems, but also on the rooms around them and the people who work in them: "What do the barriers have to look like, does a warning light have to be installed, what protective measures are necessary here to be allowed to operate the systems? Among other things, I have to pay attention to this, and I also have to regularly educate myself in these topics and train my colleagues." When closed, the laser welding machines are safe, similar to a CD player – as soon as the systems have to be opened or you work in them with your hands, special care and specifications apply. If Jürgen Lang is not there because he is ill or on vacation, Kurt Theuerkauf is a deputy. One of the laser safety officers must always be available, just in case. Other trained colleagues provide support in the daily work.  

Robby Keil is an honorary sprinkler maintainer at GEALAN and deputy fire protection officer. He shares these tasks and the deputies at the site with Michael Holz. "A fire protection officer, for example, issues so-called fire permits. They are needed when something needs to be welded or flexed somewhere. We are also responsible for maintaining the fire alarm system." A sprinkler system is housed on the ground floor of Oberkotzau: With the water pipes connected there, which flow into sprinklers on the ceiling in a large part of the rooms, it is intended to automatically protect the site in the event of fire. This system is tested once a week by sprinkler sample. "We then check whether all the alarms are still working and whether the pump is working as it should," explains Robby Keil. Possible fires are detected with two different systems: The fire alarm system with its sensors reacts to smoke. The valves of the sprinkler system open when it is hot, i.e. when certain temperatures are reached in the room, the sprinkler head opens and irrigates - at the same time, an alarm is triggered, which informs the fire brigade. In order to be able to become a fire protection officer, two weeks of training courses are a prerequisite in principle, and further training must be completed every three years. 

Robby Keil, as a sprinkler maintainer, carries out the regular tests of the sprinkler system.


Around 35 kilometres away, Yves Fiebig and Erwin Csernich are working for GEALAN as representatives. The two work in Tanna, Yves Fiebig as environmental coordinator, Erwin Csernich is employed as a process engineer in lamination. In addition to the main tasks mentioned above, they also support GEALAN with their specialist knowledge and take on responsible tasks as operations representatives: Yves Fiebig holds the office of accident officer for GEALAN, Erwin Csernich is registered as immission control officer. What do they both have in common? They protect people and the environment from harmful substances. "Preventing all of our company's negative impacts on the environment means  taking precautionary measures, training people, providing aids": This is how Yves Fiebig sums up the task for him as an accident officer. "We have to keep an eye on all hazardous substances, for example external trucks that leak diesel or that lose harmful fluids during loading due to burst hydraulic lines, for example." To put this into perspective: Almost 17,000 loading operations were recorded in Tanna alone in 2022. Of course, caution applies just as much to GEALAN's own vehicles as it does to forklifts. How does this happen? "Partly due to signs of fatigue of the material, partly also a fundamentally poor hose quality is the reason for such bursts, even with new forklifts or new hoses, experience has shown that you have to expect one or the other accident here." 

Yves Fiebig, the incident officer, finds incident equipment in the three incident containers in Tanna, but a special vehicle is also equipped with the most important materials.

The big danger here is that when it rains, the water washes the harmful liquids into the drains. The surface water from the GEALAN site flows directly into rainwater retention basins and from there on to public waters. The accident officer and his emergency responders are trained to intervene in good time, to bind leaked liquids, to block drains, to clean the site before dangers to the environment and people arise, and are available 24 hours a day, even seven days a week. "We had a major accident some time ago when a forklift driver collided with a truck, the tank of the truck was slashed open, around 600 litres of diesel leaked – in such situations, every minute really counts," says Yves Fiebig. As soon as something like this happens, there is an emergency button that triggers the complete chain of protective measures. This means that the trained emergency responders are immediately on site, trying to prevent the acute dangers with emergency aids such as sealing pads, binders and the like from emergency containers. If liquids have already entered the drain, Yves Fiebig uses the vehicle and appropriate tools to clear the pipeline networks and seals the relevant points so that the contaminated water cannot flow further into the public waters.  

In his role as immission control officer, Erwin Csernich also keeps an eye on pollutants and impurities – or rather: the measured values for them. This is because he is primarily concerned with pollutants dissolved in the air: "We use solvents in lamination that prepare the profile surfaces for bonding with the decorative films. These substances are released into the air. For this reason, the laminating systems are enclosed at this point, i.e. surrounded by a sealed housing. The polluted air is then transported to an incinerator furnace by means of an extraction system so that the pollutants do not enter the air we breathe." As an immission control officer, Erwin Csernich is trained to keep an eye on these processes. Every three years, the emission values at the laminating systems are checked by an external measuring office. Here, too, Erwin Csernich is available as a contact person for GEALAN websites. Even if there is too much dust in the air or the noise pollution in the workplaces seems too high, he is the one who takes the appropriate measures. This also applies to Erwin Csernich, as well as to all colleagues who are entrusted with these responsible tasks at GEALAN, in addition to the actual work.  

Immission control officer Erwin Csernich regularly checks the pollutant load in the air in Tanna.


"Thank goodness there are hardly any really dangerous accidents with lasers in our country," says Jürgen Lang, who is glad that good prophylaxis also seems to work: "Laser beams that hit the eye are extremely rare. If you come with the focused laser towards your fingers, you will notice that it is getting warm, but it takes a long time of irradiation before it stings like a needle. Nevertheless, we will of course remain attentive and cautious!" Sprinkler manager Robby Keil has not yet had to experience a major fire at GEALAN: "Once we had a cable fire in which the fire alarm system went off and the fire brigade had to come," he says, most of his missions had other reasons: "In the past, we often had to deal with false alarms due to pressure fluctuations alone. However, since the sprinkler system and valves have been modernized in recent years, there have been virtually no false alarms."  

And the balance sheet of the accident officer in Tanna? "If there are no incidents, we, my deputy and I and the six or seven emergency responders, are busy replenishing material in the emergency containers, reordering things if necessary and thus keeping the important emergency system running."  

Of course, the representatives presented are only a very small part of this topic at GEALAN. We could have introduced many more of these dedicated people.  

At this point, therefore, a big thank you to ALL commissioners, ALL volunteers, who make GEALAN a great deal safer for all of us with their commitment and a lot of expertise!  


Marc Schenk


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