WORK + LIFE
Explosives industry- a world all of its own
In the late 1990s, as I was given the opportunity
Scientific curiosity and joy of the fiery effect
were my motivation at the time; fortunately, my guardian angel did a good job. While other children waited full of anticipation for Christmas Eve, I could hardly wait for December 28: the first day on which New Year’s Eve fireworks could be legally sold. At some point, homemade rockets, Bengal lights, etc. followed. While other teenagers read Bravo, I was fascinated by chemistry books, old recipes, rocket engines… In high school, I took the advanced chemistry course, where I met like-minded people. Our extracurricular experiments culminated in blowing up a traffic sign, which caused us a lot of trouble and almost got us expelled from school. In order not to jeopardize our high school diploma, we curbed our scientific curiosity and stopped the experiments for the time being.
And now, directly after my studies,
An explosives plant exudes a deceptive idyll.
I remember my first encounter with our then laboratory manager.
His right hand was a scary black prosthesis, the result of a detonation of 10 g of explosives triggered by electrostatics. Soon I experienced the first accidents among our industrial employees, a chemical worker suffered burns after a detonation, again blown off fingers after a blast caused by electrostatics. My discomfort increased, and wearing conductive shoes and constantly measuring my electrical resistance, did nothing to change that. For the first time, I felt discomfort, even fear, when handling explosive materials.
While some companies use lengthy selection processes
At the beginning of my employment, I worked mainly on explosives
for oil production, on components for pyrotechnic seat belt tensioners and airbags. However, as part of a radical restructuring of the Group, including a transfer of operations, I was assigned to the defense technology department. Explosive substances could delight the eye in fireworks, save lives in airbags, extract raw materials in mining and kill in defense technology. This last aspect gave me a lot more stomach ache than the immediate danger posed by handling explosive substances. Here, my gut feeling gradually became unbearable and finally sealed my move to a new field of activity at the German Aerospace Center after about 3.5 years.
So how can it be, that
a supposed dream job gradually turns into a nightmare? I think that despite all the enthusiasm for a subject, despite an impetuous spirit of research, one must never ignore one’s inner compass of values. Therefore, I have realized that even in professional issues, in spite of all professionalism and rationality, I should never act contrary to my gut feeling.
And my joy for pyrotechnics?
I haven’t lost it. With an appropriate permit, I can now legally pursue this hobby and delight many spectators with my fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Without any remorse.
So, should you make your hobby your profession? Not necessarily, because the ease of the hobby can be lost quite quickly in the professional environment….