Orientation to the Process Operator Career Path

PTOA Readers are now aware of what process technology is, what some of the process technology industries are, and that the nature of a facility that is open 24/7 is the requirement to use a shift schedule.

PTOA Readers have been made aware of the pros and cons of shift work in process operator jobs and how to lessen the negative aspects. However, what should be expected at the worksite? What do process operators do in five or ten years?

Typical Start of the Process Operator Career

Facilities that observe the Process Safety Management Standard will need freshly hired employees to attend an orientation that lasts several days or even weeks.

The new employee will surface from orientation with a better understanding of the facility and its general health, safety, and environmental requirements.

Once released to their work site for process operator jobs, new operators will be buried in documented processes specific to that job site. On the Job Training (OJT) will flesh out what the processes direct. A more senior operator will administer the OJT to the new trainee and note that the trainee has attained levels of competency in a variety of job tasks.

The trainee must pay attention because as he or she proceeds up the career ladder, it will be his or her turn to train the next newbie operator on the job!

“Outside” (of the Control Room) Process Operator Duties

The new Process Operator trainee will start their industrial process career as an Outside Operator close to the pumps and pipes of a particular processing unit as opposed to being in the Control Room.

The processing unit that the Outside Operator is in charge of is remote (meaning quite a distance away) from the Control Room. A visit to the Control Room from the process unit area might even need to travel by truck or bicycle.

The Outside Operator will record the status of temperatures, pressures, tank levels, and flowrates by either writing them down or using a digital data collection device. This procedure is referred to as “taking readings.”

Preparing work areas for the safe completion of small maintenance is the job of the Outside Operator.

Control Board Operator Duties

Ultimately, the Outside Operator in process operator jobscan be promoted to Control Board Operator. The Control Board Operator reports to the Control Room and is ‘glue’ to a desk.

Control Board Operators interpret a continuous stream of digitized data that exposes the status of the integrated process units. The Control Board Operator will regularly be alerted by preset alarms that a small adjustment in temperature or pressure or level or flow rate is required to keep the production on specification.

Since everybody performs to job expectations, the Control Board Operator is habitually monitoring a process that is operating as expected. Therefore, it may seem that the highest-paid Control Board Operator should be paid less than the lowly Outside Operator who performs the essential physical labor, often enduring bad weather.