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A loader operator controls heavy equipment used to load and unload vehicles. Building sites, warehouses, ports, and similar settings make use of loader operators as part of their work crews. In some regions it may be necessary to have special training and a license for this work. Other workers can learn on the job and may not need to meet any employment requirements beyond having a high school diploma or equivalency certificate.
When a loader operator arrives at work, the first responsibility may be to check equipment over. Technicians can be responsible for maintaining their machines in good working order, and may work with several over the course of the day that need to be checked and fueled. The loader operator may need to lubricate components, replace parts, or report problems to a supervisor who can bring in a technician to perform complex repairs. If equipment appears to be unsafe, this may also be reported, and the machine can be taken out of service until it can be fixed.
Once all the equipment has been checked, the loader operator can look at the schedule to find out what kinds of materials may be handled during the day. This can determine which equipment should be used. A brief meeting with a supervisor may also be necessary to talk about the schedule. Multiple loader operators may be present on a large job site, in which case they can coordinate to provide coverage. They want to keep loads moving smoothly to prevent holdups at work.
Loader operators may need to wear hearing and face protection while on the job, depending on the work environment. They control heavy-duty vehicles that may load from a variety of angles, with components to adjust the height and angle of their loads. Equipment may be used to scoop up raw materials from the ground and drop them into trucks and containers. It can also be used for unloading activities on some sites.
Working environments can be harsh for a loader operator. At facilities like mines, equipment operators may be exposed to the elements, as well as risks from inhaling particulates and chemicals that may be present on site. They typically have long working hours, with mandated breaks to provide an opportunity to get away from loud, vibrating machinery. Loads may need to be handled in rain, snow, and other inclement weather to keep a work site on target with production goals and prevent slowing or stoppage.