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Chemical Plant Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Controls or operates entire chemical processes or system of machines.

This career is part of the Manufacturing cluster Manufacturing Production pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Monitors recording instruments, flowmeters, panel lights, or other indicators and listen for warning signals, to verify conformity of process conditions.
  • Regulates or shuts down equipment during emergency situations, as directed by supervisory personnel.
  • Controls or operates chemical processes or systems of machines, using panelboards, control boards, or semi-automatic equipment.
  • Moves control settings to make necessary adjustments on equipment units affecting speeds of chemical reactions, quality, or yields.
  • Inspects operating units, such as towers, soap-spray storage tanks, scrubbers, collectors, or driers to ensure that all are functioning and to maintain maximum efficiency.
  • Draws samples of products and conducts quality control tests to monitor processing and to ensure that standards are met.
  • Patrols work areas to ensure that solutions in tanks or troughs are not in danger of overflowing.
  • Records operating data, such as process conditions, test results, or instrument readings.
  • Turns valves to regulate flow of products or byproducts through agitator tanks, storage drums, or neutralizer tanks.
  • Interprets chemical reactions visible through sight glasses or on television monitors and reviews laboratory test reports for process adjustments.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Requires getting into awkward positions
  • Lighting is either extremely bright or inadequate
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to conditions such as high voltage electricity, combustibles, explosives, and chemicals more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of special protective items such as a breathing apparatus, safety harness, full protection suit, or radiation protection
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves walking or running more than one-third of the time
  • Work at heights above 8 feet more than once a month on structures such as ladders, poles, scaffolding, and catwalks

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Detecting sounds and hearing the differences between sounds of different pitch and loudness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Rotating shift work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Badger Distiller Operator --
  • Denitrator --
  • Nitric Acid Plant Operator --