Updated: Mar 24, 2022
The health of the operator
My first trip to a job site where heavy equipment was used was a landfill. I remember the smell, the birds, and the dust. I was eager to get in the cab and out of the smelly bits and pieces of everyone's trash that I ran over to get onto the machine. Not surprisingly, the cab was filled with smelly dust that was swirling around the cab and machine being carried by a stiff wind which seemed to live at the top of the trash pile. I sat there in amazement as I watched the dozers and compactors smashing everything and running it over until it was flattened into an indistinguishable matt of dirt, plastic bags, pieces of wood, metal, and who knows what else.
As I sat there in the dozer, I realized that the machine operators were in this dust and smell daily. This was their working life. These operators continuously breathed the dust that saturated everything in the cab. At that moment, I made a connection with the operators that was to change my life.
Since that time, some 14 years ago, I have visited mine sites worldwide, mining everything from diamonds to frac sand. I look at what the operators are exposed to when operating their machines in each mine. Without exception, our operators are heavily exposed to respirable dust. I would ask those in the business of designing and manufacturing heavy equipment cabs to consider what they are doing? Your job gives you a chance to significantly improve the working conditions and, consequently, the lung health of thousands of machine operators. A teary-eyed young wife in Elko, Nevada, recently exclaimed that her husband, a mining machine operator, regularly suffers from lung ailments from his work. She and her husband and millions worldwide like them would tell you that your job is a critical path to addressing the health outcomes of operators.
When we work, do we think about those who have no voice? When we participate in developing standards that directly affect the operator enclosure's air quality, do we consider the importance of what we are doing? Do we work with a sense of urgency? Are we willing to work for the operators we will never know because they need our help? If the end is designing, manufacturing, and developing standards to promote a more healthy life for our operators, we start with the end in mind. Are we willing to work to achieve this end? Together, we must design, manufacture, and maintain operators enclosures that provide healthy air quality, not just when they are new, but throughout the machine's life.
If you are not convinced that you have an essential role, visit your local landfill.
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