What is a Field Operator Expected to Know?

The role of process operator requires both knowledge and skill. The field operator is the eyes and ears of the console operator, who is typically located in a centralized control room away from the process units.

So exactly what do field operators need to know to operate their units safely and efficiently? The field operator should understand the process flows and equipment in their units.

Do they know:

  • How feed flow gets from point A to point B?
  • How to walk the line and verify lineups?
  • What types of pumps are in the unit (centrifugal or reciprocating)?
  • What product is flowing through the shell side and tube side of the exchangers?
  • Whether the tower is distillation or absorption?

When the field operator possesses a strong understanding of unit equipment, they can execute effective rounds and troubleshoot potential problems. While in the field conducting rounds, they can use their senses, such as sight, hearing, smell, and touch to identify potential issues which could lead to equipment failures and process upsets.

But, there is much more for the field operator to know than just flows and equipment. Knowing the normal operating parameters for temperatures, pressures, levels, and flows helps field operators to recognize abnormal conditions more easily.

Safety and hazard recognition and accident prevention are critical competencies for all field operators. Company policies and procedures are designed to reinforce safe work practices and protect the workforce and the plant from incidents and accidents. There is a direct correlation between process/equipment knowledge, experience, and hazard recognition. The more you understand about the unit, the better equipped you are to recognize potential hazards and take appropriate action.

Constantly asking questions enables process operators to have a better understanding of their unit and stronger ability to safely react to abnormal situations. Answers can be found in operating manuals, vendor books, and from discussions with fellow operators, engineers, and supervisors. Learning from experienced operators, and sharing information with less experienced operators, builds the team’s unit knowledge and skill level.

Process operators acquire the knowledge and skills they need when there is consistent, reliable, and sustainable training in place. Maintaining a structured approach to unit knowledge and skill requirements is part of ensuring your process operators can perform their duties—from routine to emergency—confidently, safely, and effectively.

Look at your training program and ask these questions:

  • Does your training accurately reflect the tasks the operators perform?
  • Does your training provide operators with opportunity to practice and master the tasks before qualification?
  • Is your training structured to make the operator responsible for their training?
  • Is hazard identification and risk awareness reinforced in your training?
  • Are your operating manuals and other knowledge content available in easy to find, and easy to use, formats?
  • Are your senior operators trained to be effective mentors?

If you would like a more thorough review of your training programs, please contact us. From equipment and process knowledge, to rounds and shift handover, Systran helps organizations improve their training programs to ensure field and console operators have the knowledge and skills needed to perform their jobs safely and effectively.