What is a Mining Machine Operator?

Also known as: Continuous Miner Operator, Miner Operator, Continuous Mining Machine Operator.

Mining machine operators are part of a crew at a mining site. They use machinery to drill holes and excavate rocks, coal, metals, and other material. They assist in moving and clearing the excavated material, and are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their machines.

What does a Mining Machine Operator do?

Mining machine operators are part of a crew at a mining site. They use machinery to drill holes and excavate rocks, coal, metals, and other material.

A mining machine operator must know not only how to use a variety of machines, but must also be able to maintain and repair them. Mining machine operators will use backhoes, dozers, scrapers, haul or other trucks, graders, front-end loaders, draglines, hydraulic or cable shovels, packers, mine dewatering equipment, equipment transporters, air exhausters, conveyor belts, boom bolters, grease guns, hammers, jacks, and tape measures.

While controlling the operations of mining machines, the operator will watch gauges, dials, and other indicators, determine the cause of problems and identify solutions and use logic and reasoning to ascertain the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to sometimes complex problems.

Subordinates, peers, and supervisors must be communicated with, and the operator could be responsible for the health and safety of others. A mining machine operator must be able to work both independently and in a team environment.

It may be necessary to work in a cramped space or awkward position or at considerable height for an extended period. Loads as heavy as 44 pounds will have to be lifted. Lighting might be extremely bright, and noise levels can be uncomfortable. A hard hat, life jacket, hearing protection, gloves, glasses, and safety shoes will often be necessary. In remote locations, mining machine operators may be away from home for several weeks at a time.

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What is the workplace of a Mining Machine Operator like?

A mining machine operator might be exposed to contaminants or hazardous equipment. Methane in coal seams can escape into tunnels, and miners sometimes hear it hissing. Explosions can injure workers who are many yards away, and cave-ins can trap or bury workers. Flooding is another problem mining machine operators must sometimes contend with.

Fatalities, however, are constantly falling as safety regulations and training have improved, and the current death toll is much less than in the past, when thousands of miners would die every year. Phil Smith of the United Mine Workers of America said, "The focus on safety and enforcement of rules has gotten much better. Most companies recognize that they need to operate safely and that's progress."

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