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What Does a Chemical Plant Operator Do?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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A chemical plant operator oversees all aspects of production at a chemical manufacturing facility. A professional may work in a factory that produces paint, pesticides, refined oil, synthetic plastics, explosives, or another type of industrial chemical product. He or she ensures workers follow safety regulations and that finished products meet quality standards. Many chemical plant operators also perform administrative duties, such as signing paychecks and setting work schedules.

Workplace safety is a primary concern of a chemical plant operator. Since many plants are carefully regulated by federal or regional agencies, it is typically the responsibility of the operator to make sure rules are followed at all times. An operator frequently performs walk-throughs of facilities to ensure equipment is clean and kept in proper working condition. If a machine or chemical tank is damaged, the operator temporarily suspends activity and arranges for repair work. He or she also enforces personal safety rules, such as the use of eye protection and gloves, to help workers avoid unnecessary accidents.

A chemical plant operator performs quality-control inspections at different phases of production. He or she makes sure chemicals are mixed, heated, stored, and transported appropriately. The plant operator communicates frequently with employees, explaining new procedures and addressing any concerns or suggestions they may have about production efficiency.

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Most chemical plant operators enjoy standard, 40-hour workweeks. Since some factories remain in operation around the clock, a professional may be required to occasionally work weekend or night shifts. An operator may also need to be prepared to come in between shifts in the event of an emergency.

The requirements to become a chemical plant operator vary between settings and employers. Some operators begin their careers as floor workers in factories, advancing to supervisory positions after gaining several years of experience and demonstrating leadership skills. Some employers require prospective operators to hold degrees in chemical engineering, industrial engineering, chemistry, or a closely-related subject. New operators typically work assistant supervisors for several weeks or months to learn about the responsibilities of the job and master their skills.

Many experienced operators enjoy advancement opportunities within their companies. Some professionals are able to obtain executive administrative positions, where they can help enact new policies to improve production and profits. Operators with the appropriate education may also be able to move into research and development positions. In addition, a respected, business-savvy operator may have success opening his or her own chemical plant.

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anon335796
Post 5

My dad works at Lonza -- a chemical plant.

jcraig
Post 3

@Izzy78 - My guess would be that salary depends on the company, job description, and experience.

If you are in charge of overseeing how chemicals are stored and mixed for a company like DuPont, I would expect you to make much more than if you were in the head of quality control for a small company that made plastic toys.

In the first case, you would probably have to have a chemical engineering degree, and could make upwards of $100,000. In the second scenario, a person could have easily moved up through the system to get the job, and that person might be making $45-$50,000. Those are just rough estimates from my knowledge of other careers, but they are probably close.

jmc88
Post 2

I have never working in a factory, but how large (or small) is a chemical factory normally?

Is the plant operator at the top of the food chain in the factory? It seems like, with all of those responsibilities, a larger plant would need several individuals who each had his or her own specific area to oversee.

It seems like it could be quite dangerous working in a chemical plant, too. A factory making paint or chemicals would have tons of cancerous fumes in the air. How do they keep them away from the employees?

Izzy78
Post 1

Before reading this, I never realized how much work some of the factory managers have to do. I always imagined them in the movie sense where they stand and look out of a window at the machine operators.

How much would someone like this get paid each year, and how hard is it to move through the ranks and reach the plant operator position?

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