Kinegar Quarries Ltd has long been a Volvo customer and now only operates Volvo machines at their Glenfin Quarry. It was great to hear that Kinegar has a female operator working for them so Amy Metcalfe travelled to Scotland to meet Lea Laughlin, a machine operator there for nearly four years…
Five years ago Lea was working in a local pub but upon hearing that it was set to close she found herself looking for a new job. Lea heard about an opening at the quarry from her partner Douglas, applied for the job and was successful. Lea comments, “The job was based in the sand quarry and I was working in the bagging shed and office. This is where I first came into contact with machinery as I was using the forklift to help fill and load bags of sand.”
There wasn’t enough work to keep Lea busy though and after a colleague in the quarry retired Lea began operating one of the Volvo loading shovels. “I had a couple of 10 minute lessons to see how I got on and then I completed my ticket three and a half years ago,” comments Lea. “I began loading lorries and then trained in operating the dump truck, excavators and crushers. I now operate any of the machines depending on what needs to be done each day.” Lea adds, “When I first began loading lorries the drivers would talk to me beforehand and then when I hopped into the loading shovel a look of horror would often appear on their face as though I didn’t know what I was doing. Some of them even tried to give me instructions. The drivers all know me now and it makes no difference that I’m a female – I’m just one of the team.”
Lea even manages to fit work around family life. She mainly works during school hours in the week and on Saturdays. In summer months, when the quarry is at its busiest, she will work longer hours. Her son was recently diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes and if there are any problems at the school or with his medication then it’s only 10 minutes from site and the team at Kinegar have been understanding to those needs.
I asked Lea which machines she enjoys working on most. “I enjoy excavator work the most as you get to see a job such as levelling finished. I do enjoy seeing the whole process though and like to work in all areas, from using the ripper on the quarry face, loading rock into the crusher and then loading lorries with the finished product.”
Lea has recently been working on the new EC480DL sold to Kinegar in December 2015. The L2220H is also a new machine sold to Kinegar in March 2015. Arnot Findlay, Managing Director comments; “The L220H has been brilliant for us. We used to run L180s but the L220 is capable of loading a lorry in just 2-3 passes which means we have one operator and one machine working rather than having two with not enough work to keep them busy all the time.”
Arnot adds, “When we buy any new machine we plan to run them forever, that is why we buy Volvo as they are durable and last a long time. We also have an old Ackerman still working although it’s now becoming increasingly hard to get parts for it."
I asked Lea if she had used the old Ackerman. She laughed replying “Yes I have, it’s certainly different to the new excavators. It’s very slow and juddery in comparison and there are no comforts such as air-con! I have to remember to be gentle on the controls when I then go back to working on one of the younger machines. I did find though that it was easier to learn on the older machines as they are slower and a bit more forgiving.”
Steven Findlay, Director of Kinegar who has recently retired and is brother to Arnot comments, “Lea takes the time to listen and learn and the great thing is that because she listens, you only have to teach her something once. She is a very good operator and a real asset to the team.”