Any Operating Engineers around?

hi guys …
im a product design student doing a Ear protection gear for Operating Engineers . Is there any Operating Engineers around or does anybody know abt Operating Engineers …im doin my share of reasearch on them and i wud pesonally like to get in touch wit them if he/she around core77… please do reply …


I was in ID for twenty+ years and still do some consulting. But my primary occupation now is that of an Operating Engineer (I enjoy being outdoors, I don’t have to rationalize myself to co-workers everyday, and dirt seldom argues with a 60,000 pound dozer (and when it does I win)).

An OE for about two years now, I’ve have run many different types of heavy equipment and also hold a CDL (commercial drivers license) for operating trucks. I hold endorsements for air brakes, combination vehicles (multiple trailers, semi-trailers, and tank vehicles), and hazardous materials transport.

I posted some comments on industrial hearing protection a while back under ‘guest’. Glad to see someone took notice; it’s an area of serious concern for a lot of people.

yuhooo !!! …like finally i get to talk to an OP. Thank u so much for replying and taking interest in my project buddy.
basically im trying to design an ear muff+ communication device which can universally fit under any hard hat(safety helmet …Actually this project was initiated by one of the visitors of core77, so guess it was u!.
I Wanna knw certain basic info abt REAL OPs (Who have been there done that!):

  1. working demands 2.working conditions 3. physical demands 4. their psychology 5. thier interests etc.

im in the initial stages of this project where im supposed to do my need full research. i had formulated a design brief and presented to my lecturers and they liked my idea. since this project involves a lot of human factor considerations hence,appart from solving those problems our lecturers hv also adviced to look into the aspects of purchasing influences and trend analysis.
i would also like to focus on the parellel experience of this product where i plan to work on packaging etc. i shall later follow up with sketches.

pls do post a reply …


This will be a long-winded read, there is a lot of information to convey. I’ve tried to address your initial questions as presented. There is a lot that I’ve left out. But of all the information offered, Human Factors would be the one area to keep foremost in your mind.

First; an Operating Engineer is any person who is running a piece of equipment (tractor with backhoe, dozer, grader, roller, paving machine, etc.). They may not even be aware of it, but their job description is, "operating engineer’. Engineer is used in the old sense; a person in charge of engines (ships, locomotive, etc.). Engine n. 1) a mechanical contrivance, esp. as a source of power. That said I’m sure there are a lot of them near you that you can glean more information and opinions from.

Second; I’ve searched for my original post and don’t seem to be able to locate it… do you remember where it was? :blush:

Exisitng Technology

MSA; Mine Safety Appliances, is the largest manufacturer of safety equipment.


Peltor is a company that is leading in the area of industrial communication AND safety equipment. Initially I would suggest that you take a look at their website;

In particular see:
Products > Communication Programs
Products > Safety Program

Be sure to download the PDF files in each heading; they contain more images than the web pages themselves.

1) Working Demands:
It’s a stressful, dangerous (big equipment near people on the ground) outdoor job; dust, rain, snow, heat. Communications regarding equipment and material movement is necessary; i.e. the operator of a grader removes the amount of earth that the “grade checker” on the ground indicates to him/her by hand signals. The industry standard signal “stop” is two clenched fists (knuckles toward the intended receiver). When you see it in your brain you hear it “yelled”; !STOP!. It could be a matter of life or death, or the guy just wants to tell you something.

2) Working Conditions and
3) Physical Demands

Heat: fatique contributes to a loss of attention which in turn, contributes to accidents. Headphone type hearing protection and helmets decrease the amount of skin surface available for cooling; and in the most critical part of the anatomy, the head.

Cold: while easier to deal with than extremes of heat creates problems of it’s own. It’s harder to move your head around to see what is around you. Heavy gloves reduce your sensitivity to controls. My eyes water a lot in the cold creating reduced visibility.
Visibility: 360 degree, hemi-spherical visibility is critical. Anything that interferes with the operator’s awareness of his/her immediate vicinity places personnel (first) and equipment (second) safety at risk. Your head is on a swivel, constantly looking in front, behind, up and down. Experienced operators take mental snap shots of the people around them; you get to the point where you know some is supposed to be without actually seeing them. If they do not appear “on time” you instinctively stop.

Pollution: Engine exhaust, hazardous materials (fuel, contaminates in the soil) and airborne particulates contribute to damaged vision and respiratory ailments.
Ultra Violet light causes cataracts in long time operators if they do not wear safety and/or sunglasses.

Noise: Some machines develop over 600 horsepower and the exhaust stack is five feet away from your head. 100+ decibel Ievels are not uncommon, resulting in permanent hearing damage for long term operators, and loss of communication with ground personnel (the partial reason for hand signals. As with loud concert music, where you feel the music vibrating your guts, exhaust noise does the same thing.

Vibration: Most heavy equipment does not have a suspension system which results in a lot of bouncing and jarring. Engine vibration transmits through seats, hand, and foot controls.

DVT; deep vein thrombosis (blood clots); sitting for long periods of time (like on long flights, professional drivers, etc) are susceptible to the development of blood clots.

4) Psychology
Operating heavy equipment is traditionally a male occupation. Macho is the key word. Typical mentality is:

I don’t NEED safety equipment - I don’t WANT to use safety equipment.
If it is uncomfortable I won’t use it - If it looks funny I won’t wear it.

Hot Dogs: those who operate equipment at the extreme edge of a machine’s capability. They extract the maximum amount of work that a machine can produce but may do so in an unsafe manner. It is an ‘admired’ trait (time is money).

However, in the construction industry emphasis on safety is changing drastically. Being the lowest bidder on a project isn’t the only prerequisite to winning the job. A company’s safety record is becoming a major element. Like everything else, a construction project must be insured and if your company has a record of accidents you’re not going to win the job.

5) Interests
Again, male dominant, but as with everyone else, interests are diverse.

In the US a lot of OEs come from farming and ranching backgrounds so outdoor activity is a primary one; hunting, fishing, camping, motorcycle riding, automobile racing, professional sports. I grew up near the ocean so sailing is mine.

But what they all share in common is an interest in BIG machines and their operation. A typical conversation involves the use of lots of numbers and letters: CS563C, 657, 966, D9, D11 … machine names. Like saying you drive a Volkswagen Jetta, if I told another operator I was running a Cat 957E, he’d know I was operating an Open Bowl Scraper manufactured by the Caterpillar company. And if he didn’t, he wouldn’t let on that he didn’t.


hey LRM …again thank u very much for ur detail elaborate reply…i think u were lookin for this…
this was the passage which actually initiated my project…

"'m an ex-ID who now operates heavy equipment (bulldozers, scapers, excavators, etc.). These pieces of equipment are incredibly dangerous, hot, and noisey (95+dB isn’t unusual in the enclosed cab of a big dozer).

A real product need; more complicated than an Ipod.

A safety helmet (hard hat) that incorporates hearing protectors with a communication capability. An “OSHA” rated helmet system that incorporates hearing protectors that don’t give the user an immense headache after a ten hour day. It must also incorporate sun / dust protection for the eyes.

Combine FSR radio reception (so we can communicate with other operators and supervisors) with an MP3 capability. Since this would be an industrial setting safety is the primary concern, with supervisory input being second; hence the FSR circuit should over ride the MP3.

The market?

There are approximately 23,000 union Operating Engineers in California. There are three times as many who are independent. The math looks something like 50 x 100,000 operating engineers in the US … alone.

Why combine all of these elements?

There are currently hundreds of safety helmets (hard hats) available and there are headphone type hearing protectors available that can be plugged into a lot of them. The problem with the “aftermarket” hearing protectors is that they have to be small enough to “universally” fit under the edge of the greatest number of helmets. As a result they are so small that they pinch the ears; after an hour it’s agony, after ten the red marks don’t go away until the next morning.

The helmet needs to be designed so that the hearing protectors are large enough to provide room around the ear for it to lay naturally; it would also increase the surface area and lower the pressure against the head. This added space would be more than enough for speakers. Ear plugs, and earbuds, are out, I’ve tried them under my hearing protectors and it’s just too hot, uncomfortable, and you have to remove both your headphone hearing protector AND the earbud to use the radio or speak with personnel on the ground. The delay in removing these to respond to a command is a real safety issue. The “mike” should be a manually keyed throat worn device, as opposed to “hands-off” voice activated unit. The reason? The noise level in these machine is enough to “key” the transmitter.

Why should this system include eye protection?

This is a very dusty (abrasive) environment in which to work and ultra violet radiation is damaging to the eyes; something like 12% of operating engineers, who have worked in the industry for thirty years (their whole working life) develop cataracts, so vision protection is very important.

When you wear a headphone type hearing protector you have to slip the temples of your sunglasses under the headphone which does two things; 1) it breaks the seal around your ear and it gets noisey again, and 2) the headphone pad presses the sunglass frame into that tender area immediately above your ear.
Not a quick, or easy project … but does address a real human factors problem."

do keep me posted …and ill follow up wit more questions …

thanx again…

hey LRM…
my project is in full swing. i have looked through many exsiting ear muffs and those suggested by u too , and i also have the the PDFs with me from the respective sites.

with respect to those exiting models i ve been able to bench-mark my concept and i have come up with usability charts where i have broken down my subject into:
-human factor aspects
-human limits
-user centered design experience
-parellel experience
-consumer psychology proir and post purchase.

i came up with few sketches but still have to reconsider certain features. im also doing sketch models assuming safety helmet as my limiting form.
im also doing scenario studeies and i tried a bit of role-playing with my friends.

now the real problem with which u gotta help me is , wht exactly is the problem with the exsiting ones. i mean looking into ones exsiting i felt so bad that OEs have to be wearing such bulky and heavy things for hrs.

i was thinking of doing a strict behind-the-head model and a throat worn neck-band made of softer cloth- like material (actually this cloth material was the casing for the Logitech PDAs in 2002 which incorporated the key board.research is due!).and have a grove like shaft near the connection of the band and the muff so that users can put-on spectacles while using the product.
I have bench-marked my deisgn ideas/concept at these two models :
MSA model :0900-listen only basic &
peltor Wireless solution headset. so in terms of technology and features i can incorporate certain aspects of both.

i would like to have ur comments on this idea. and thanks for the help with websites etc. :smiley:



I was “pushin dirt” yesterday. This is a seasonal business and the rain out here in California has really put a pinch on our income (those of us not involved in road mainenance anyway).

This morning I get to have a root canal… … . . so I’ll be out of action until this evening. Not a bad way to start a day really … what worse could go wrong?

I’ll take a second look at your last post and get back to you.

i felt so bad that OEs have to be wearing such bulky and heavy things for hrs.

The “bulky” part isn’t as bad as the “heavy” part. The worse part by far is the “not big enough” part, referring to the fact that most of these ear cups are not big enough to fit comfortably around the ear. I usually have to carefully manipulate my ear to fit into the headphone. It’s a pain in the ass when you have to take them on and off many times during the course of a day. That’s why the Peltor helmet has that arched cutout, so they can use their “larger than average” headphone.

Later Vicky, time for me to toss back a few Valium… I’m under the knife in forty-five minutes… :open_mouth:

Oral surgery. … . .bleechhhh! I didn’t come around until four in the afternoon. Glad that’s over.

, wht exactly is the problem with the exsiting ones.

I mentioned above that the amount of space INSIDE the ear cup on most of these “aftermarket” headphone type protectors is too small to accomodate the human ear. I mean, they fit okay, but they are just too restrictive for long term wear without a break (especially irritating at the top of the ear at the spot where your eyeglasses rest, even if you don’t wear glasses). If you’re working on an assembly line or something like that you can stop occassionally and take them off or move them around. That just isn’t convenient on heavy equipment. It takes 110% of your attention to stay on top of operations so stopping to take your hearing protection off isn’t a good thing; it breaks your concentration and takes your eyes off of the work site where others are running equipment and working on the ground.

I believe this small size is necessary to accomodate the greatest number of different manufacturers helmets. Peltor has the best of both worlds; they manufacture for “aftermarket”, and they have their own helmet line. The cut out in their helmet is, in my opinion, a great feature because it allows them to fit a larger ear cup to THEIR helmets. Their “universal” headphones are smaller…

I’m not able to quantify the pressure that these devices exert on the wearers head/ear area (temporal area(?)) but it would be interesting to learn. An increase in ear cup size would both increase the sealed surface area, and decrease the pressure on the temples. The idea of some sort of relief for eyeprotection “temples” (the name for the arms on eye glasses) is interesting. A problem of increased noise my exist when glasses are not worn.

The protectors that I currently use are designed such that they can be worn with the connecting metal band over the head, behind the head, or under the jaw; obviously with a helmet on they can not be worn over the head. It has been my experience that when they are worn under the chin, while the most comfortable position (for me), they catch as I turn to look over my shoulders (which is about every ten seconds or so; every time I have to back up).

The David Clarke Company, Inc. is the manufacturer of the headphones I wear. They’ve been making hear protection/communications head gear since World War II.

Mine are Model 310. They are realtively inexpensive and the foam/seal portion of the headphones is replaceable.

But check out their website, especially their Vehicle Intercom Systems; Model H3442:
Check out the Parts List & Schematic Link at the lower right of this page (kind of them to show us I thought).

There is another feature available that I feel is important on the new Peltor headphones (Push-to-Listen). It allows the operator to hear without having to remove his/her headphones. If you haven’t already discovered it go to:
Peltor > Products > Safety Program > Hearing Protectors > Push To Listen

Sounds like you’ve got a handle on this Vicky. Too bad the scope of your project doesn’t allow you to do a TOTAL package (head,eyes,ears, respiration) but I think it will show a great deal of real-world industrial design application; i.e. not just another cellphone/MP3 entertainment product. And OE’s probably aren’t ready for a Darth Vader helmet anyway.

Let me know if you there is anything else I can help you with.