Chemical Equipment Operators
On the Job
Chemical equipment operators control equipment that processes chemicals.
Some chemicals are harmless to touch and handle, while others are quite dangerous. Take nitrogen, for example. It is abundant in our atmosphere, yet in its liquid form it is so cold (-196 degrees Celsius) that it can freeze skin immediately upon touching it. Nitrogen is extremely useful, however. It can be used to cool and freeze food. It is even part of the process used to construct tires. Because many chemicals are so useful and yet volatile, they need specially trained people to handle them.Chemical equipment operators control the flow of chemicals through production equipment. Their exact duties vary. The product being produced and the manufacturing methods being used both affect duties. Some operators supervise several machines or processes in addition to supervising workers. Others tend a single machine.
Operators begin a new production cycle by reading about the product they will produce. This includes reading a list of ingredients and the processing instructions. Next, operators weigh or measure the proper amount of each chemical needed for the product. They either scoop or dump the materials into the equipment. Operators may do this task themselves, or supervise workers who load the materials. Before starting, operators set and adjust gauges, timers, and other controls that regulate the processing. These controls adjust the feed and flow of liquids and gases through equipment. They also add each ingredient in the correct order.
Once the equipment is set up, operators begin the processing. They start pumps and turn valves to begin the mixing of ingredients. While the chemicals are being processed, operators monitor the equipment. They watch gauges, meters, and panel lights that indicate the temperature and pressure. They often keep a log of this data. Operators also patrol the work area to look for leaks or malfunctioning equipment. They contact the maintenance department when they find problems. They also test samples of the product during various stages of production. Operators draw samples of the product from the equipment. They usually analyze the product themselves. They use equipment, such as pH meters, to determine if the product is being processed properly. When they find problems, operators contact supervisors.
Once a product is finished, operators clean the equipment. They do this by draining equipment and pumping water through it. Operators also perform basic maintenance on the equipment. They replace filters, lubricate parts, and replace parts that wear out frequently. Equipment operators also keep track of raw materials. They may do the ordering, or inform someone else of what they need.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Read list of ingredients and processing instructions.
- Weigh or measure ingredients and add them to processing equipment.
- Set and adjust gauges and timers.
- Start pumps, turn valves, or move controls to begin processing.
- Observe gauges, meters, and panel lights to monitor temperature or pressure.
- Record data, such as temperature, pressure, ingredients used, processing time, or test results.
- Draw samples of product for testing.
- Test samples using test equipment, such as hydrometer or pH meter.
- Inspect equipment to detect leaks and malfunctions.
- Notify maintenance department of equipment breakdowns.
- Drain equipment. Pump water or other solution through to clean tanks or equipment.
- Direct activities of workers helping to process or unload materials.
- Replace filters, make minor repairs, and maintain equipment, using hand tools.
- Observe safety precautions to prevent fires and explosions.
- Inventory supplies received and used.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Control machines and processes.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Use computers.
- Document and record information.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Process information.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Operate vehicles or mechanized equipment.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Analyze data or information.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Teach others.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Handle and move objects.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a medium level of social contact with others.
- Talk with others usually through face-to-face discussions. They also communicate by telephone and e-mail, but less often.
- Often work as part of a team.
- Are responsible for the health and safety of other workers in the plant.
- Are responsible for the work done by the workers who assist them.
- Often wear hardhats, safety glasses, body suits, or breathing devices.
- Are exposed to loud sounds and distracting noise levels that may be uncomfortable.
- Are regularly exposed to contaminants.
- Work both indoors and outdoors.
- Are sometimes exposed to hazardous equipment.
- May be exposed to hot or cold temperatures. Indoor locations are often not temperature controlled. Outdoor work sites are usually under cover.
- Sometimes must work in very dim or bright lighting.
- Are sometimes exposed to hazardous situations that can produce cuts or burns.
- Sometimes must climb to high places.
- May travel to and from work sites in an enclosed vehicle.
- Must be sure that all details of the job are complete.
- Must be very accurate in processing chemicals. Errors in mixing chemicals could endanger workers or consumers.
- Must pace work to match the speed of the processing equipment.
- Often repeat the same physical activities.
- Usually are not required to consult a supervisor before making decisions or setting tasks and goals.
- Meet strict weekly deadlines.
- Daily make decisions that strongly impact coworkers and their company.
- Usually work 40 hours a week. Schedules are usually established.
- Often work day, evening, or night shifts.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use hands to handle tools or equipment controls.
- Stand while monitoring or controlling equipment.
- Walk around work area while inspecting equipment.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Speak clearly so laborers can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp and move machine controls.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when adjusting controls.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Keep or regain the body's balance or stay upright when in an unstable position.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Use muscles for extended periods without getting tired.
- See objects in very bright or glaring light.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.