Lana Edwards has operated plant machinery for longer than she cares to remember. She has a similar story to so many in today’s world of Plant Operators, sitting in her first machine, on her dad’s farm at the age of 8, by putting wooden blocks on the pedals of a grey fergie.
Lana gave us her back story, “I began life as a plant operator and started to earn a living, from when I left school. I joined the family business and got on the tractors, we had a little 5-tonne digger along with a Massey 200B traxcavator and a CAT D4 this was back in the 1980’s. My work on the farm started off ploughing, working on steep stuff, it taught you quickly where the limits of the machine could be found”.
“When operating a machine it becomes an extension of you, you can feel the machine. The machine is talking to you, and you need to be able to understand and read the machine like a book”.
Lana left the world of agriculture and moved to construction some 8 years ago. We asked her about the machines she has operated and her preferences.
What are you Operating and how is the role for women on site?
“I am currently operating a Hitachi-7 ZX225US. Prior to this I was on a Volvo followed by Kubota, depending on job, but since having Hitachi the step up from the -6 is something else. I am currently working with O’Donnell Services; I have been with them for 3 months and they have allocated me with a Hitachi. This is great as I know how to get the most out of it. I know the costs of these machines, so I look after them.”
Lana went on to talk more about life on site for a woman.
I have a wealth of knowledge tucked away around being able to operate and fix machines, knowing how to go about a job just comes naturally. I find that if I see someone struggling on site, I will go over and help – this doesn’t always go down well – perhaps they don’t like being offered help by a woman. It can be a struggle as a woman in construction. It is changing, slowly, but there is still a long way to go”.
“I am seeing more women on site, but my understanding is the number of female operators is around 1% of the workforce. I have however seen more women on dumpers recently than I have on the diggers”.
“I love to share and promote on social media what I do and what other women could do on site. It’s a snapshot of the working day, showing that women are just as capable as anyone else at doing the same job”.
I have an eye for a level.
Interestingly Lana had a pragmatic approach to machine control. Here is what she had to say…
“GPS and machine control is not a necessity, but I would like to learn more and suggest it is a must for people joining the industry. My way of thinking is, you should be taught to do it more manually to learn the basics. When tech fails, you need to be able to carry on. I have an eye for a level, I can find a level and take that and carry it on, I don’t need to rely on GPS”.
“I like to use the bucket the ‘wrong way round’ – why not? If you turn the bucket, it gives you dexterity, it trebles your capabilities with the bucket, as far as I can see, many can’t use the bucket turned as a natural extension of the arm. It enables me to get around things better, it makes common sense, makes the job quick – I do it because I can. I choose the quickest, safest and simplest method for me”.
Many thanks to Lana this is a great perspective, from an experienced operator, who has worked in the industry for 50 years…and just happens to be woman.