Neville Jacquire of Somerset Timbers thoroughly understands the importance of his job as a treatment operator.
“My work comes with a lot of responsibility, because the timber we treat is used to build houses and other structures that must last a long time,” he says.
“This means that treatment operators must go to bed early every night,” he adds, laughing. “But really, the work is very interesting. I learn more and more every day. And I am proud to be doing a good job, because if I help to produce a good product, it puts the company’s name up there, as number one.”
Dolphin Bay trained Neville, along with most of the other treatment operators in South Africa, and this training has given him a thorough understanding of the optimal wood treatment process. “I have learnt how to identify different types of wood before it is treated to see whether it is soft or hard, and I also do a moisture content test,” he says. He then calculates the volume of wood to be treated and, taking into account the hazard class required, works out the appropriate concentration of CCA to use in order to satisfy the relevant SANS requirements.
When the treatment process is finished, he checks the penetration of CCA with equipment that Dolphin Bay provided, and compares this, too, with the SANS specs.
Gareth Jantjies, our Senior Technical Advisor, trained Neville. “Whenever I have a question, day or night, I phone Gareth at Dolphin Bay,” says Neville. “He is always available to help.”
Over the past two years we have trained about 10% more operators than previously, observes Gareth. “This high turnover is a pity, because operators have a big impact on the effectiveness of a plant,” he says. “We encourage our clients to employ competent operators and train them well, and those who are taking this advice seriously are benefitting.”
Gareth advises clients to choose candidates for the job of operator from within the industry, and make sure that they have some knowledge of timber, as understanding the various cuts is important. Ideally, operators should have worked their way up in a treatment plant. They also need to be able to multiply, subtract, divide and add numbers; calculate cubes; work with a tape, and operate a calculator.
Matriculating with mathematics is no indicator of mathematical ability; some matriculants who have passed maths cannot do the simplest calculations. Ideally, give candidates a test of basic mathematics during the interview process.
Says Bertus: “Invest time and effort in employing the right person, and invest time and resources in training him or her. This will help to retain expertise within your business, which is always a cost-effective move.
“Operators do not need to be highly educated, but they do need to be savvy, dedicated, and to take their work seriously, without being tempted to take shortcuts.”