I like my job as a press officer. Because the job is interesting, versatile, sometimes challenging and brings the odd surprise. This is also the case in the following case: A few months ago, the legislator passed the revision of a body of legislation that came into force on June 1, 2015, namely the “Ordinance on Safety and Health Protection in the Use of Work Equipment (Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance – BetrSichV)”. Sounds dull, do you think? It is. At least at a superficial glance. Behind it, however, lies the authoritative body of rules and regulations governing the safety of technical installations in Germany, from lifts to steam boilers. The Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health is the body of rules and regulations that is crucial for the level of safety and helps to keep the dangers of technology in check. Now you will of course ask what all this has to do with press relations.

The passenger elevator or “paternoster”

For me, the entry into force of the regulation was initially business as usual: writing and publishing press releases, answering initial questions and placing experts in contact. Until suddenly the subject really took off and the telephone never stopped ringing. It was specifically about the so-called passenger elevator, popularly known as the “paternoster”. What had happened? Well, the new regulation states that in future paternosters may only be used by employees who have been instructed by their employer. This means in reverse that normal visitors (since they are neither employed nor instructed) are no longer allowed to use these installations. This caused an outcry in Germany, as these nostalgic lifts are still used tirelessly in some town halls, universities and other public buildings and it is hard to imagine life without them. Journalists from all media genres now wanted to know whether this was really true, how dangerous paternosters really are and what happens next. One has to imagine: We have millions of installations in Germany that require testing, an estimated 700,000 of which are lifts, and the whole of Germany is concerned with a few hundred paternosters.^

The story: “The Paternosters in Germany”

All of Germany? No, because by now the story is going around the world. Recently even the respected Wall Street Journal wrote about “The Paternosters in Germany”. At the latest with such a reach, press work is really fun. But what is the reason for this enormous interest in this topic? I think two aspects come into play here. On the one hand, the paternoster is something like an endangered dinosaur that needs to be protected following a natural reflex. On the other hand, people have a weakness for nostalgic technology: steam locomotives, vintage cars and now also paternosters have become dear to our hearts. These are things that we do not want to miss despite all our striving for perfection and modernity. The ambivalent attitude that we would like to have one hundred percent safety in “normal” passenger elevators, but in view of the lovable paternoster, the question of safety should be interpreted more generously. So be it. The paternoster should be preserved in any case as a historical technology worthy of protection, because if the rules and instructions for use are observed, the dangers that cannot be ignored are manageable. Here again our personal responsibility and attentiveness is required.


Frank Ehlert

Frank Ehlert

Head of Internal Communications & Corporate Publishing

Frank Ehlert is the head of the Internal Communications and Corporate Publishing team in TÜV Rheinland’s newsroom. He studied business administration and is a creative mind and lateral thinker. Frank Ehlert has lived with his family in Cologne for many years. He is a fan of 1. FC Köln, the football team from Cologne, plays guitar and is known there to turn up the volume.

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