Living diversity in the workplace - fostering belonging through openness and collegiality

As a company, we have integrated diversity and inclusion into our corporate values. We are committed to promoting equality for our employees and creating an inclusive workplace that supports people with disabilities. For example, after successfully passing a mine fitness test, we also enabled our employee Bernd Heise to return to work underground as a mining operations employee. Despite several strokes of fate in his health, Bernd is fighting his way back into life and back to work. With his story, he wants to encourage other people with a disability.


Bernd Heise, 49 years old, has been working as an underground miner at the K+S Sigmundshall plant since 1998.

After his apprenticeship as a mining technologist in 1990, he was employed as a carpenter in the meantime until he started working as a miner again in 1998.

In 2011, he suffered a severe slipped disc followed by surgery. However, Bernd fought his way back to work through rehab, medical training gymnastics, functional training in water as well as company health management and was able to work underground again, albeit with restrictions.

Unfortunately, Bernd then had massive problems in his hip joint in 2018, which also had to be operated on. But Bernd doesn't give up, he keeps on fighting. One of his strengths is that he doesn't let it get him down so quickly, but keeps getting up and fighting. That's how he made it back to work this time, too.

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K+S has made it possible for Bernd to continue working underground. As part of the reconstruction of the Sigmundshall plant, he returned to work as a helper in the electrical engineering department. After his reintegration, he received great support from his colleagues, the representative body for severely disabled persons and the company reintegration management. 

Bernd Heise
Since I was previously a repairman and mining supervisor and frequently drove lift platforms, it was an obvious idea to drive the stage vehicle in the electrical engineering deconstruction department. This is needed almost daily to remove electrical cables hanging under the ceiling and thus a driver for the stage vehicle was needed."
Bernd Heise

He can count on his colleagues

Bernd can only turn his head a maximum of 10% in any direction, so visibility to the rear was almost impossible. Through colleagues of Bernd and in cooperation with the supervisor, the idea matured to install larger exterior mirrors and a rear view camera system on the two backhoe vehicles. This enables Bernd to perform a similar job as before. In addition, the cutting of the cables was optimized, which means that Bernd is now also able to cut heavy/thick cables that need to be disposed of. Carrying loads over 10 kg is done by his colleagues. To receive such great support from colleagues is not an everyday occurrence, says Bernd Heise.

The biggest challenge for me, apart from the private difficulties, was to get back into working life. That's why I'm very glad that K+S enabled me to continue working underground surveyor."
Bernd Heise

Bernd wants to encourage other people with a disability through his story and his most important advice is, no matter what degree of disability you have, you should not give up on yourself. It is important to contact the appropriate people when returning to work, such as the representatives for severely disabled persons or the coordinators for company integration management, in order to obtain a job that is suitable for the person with a disability. In addition, discussions can of course also be held with the supervisor or the head of department. If both sides suggest possible and appropriate workplaces in the company, then the workplace suitable for the suffering is almost created!

Wishes for society

I would like to see the topic of inclusion & diversity publicized even more. In doing so, it's important to manage to get the public to think about the diversity of humanity in order to become more tolerant of other people."
Bernd Heise

All information about the converted vehicle from Bernd Heise

The stage vehicle is the multicar platform No. 6 from the company Hubmeister. This platform vehicle was converted for Bernd Heise, among other things, by a camera system from the company Orlaco to meet his needs. Through a monitor in the driver's cab, Bernd can see everything despite limited movement radius.

The vehicle

The vehicle

The monitor in the driver's cab

The installed camera

The vehicle from behind

Thank you Bernd for telling us your story.

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