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Old 06-27-2019, 10:24 PM   #1
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Default Had my first break doing maintenance...

And blew it. This was a two week rotation at a lead smelter (combustible dust and old machinery, 60 year old substations) I come from a commercial background (Journeyman since March) so I guess I didn't know what I was getting into. It's too bad as I really liked the job (except for the dirt). I got the job through a placement agency, who I was told the super is only looking for engineering techs/engineers now (no surprise there) as he doesn't think the contracted electricians are good enough at servicing old equipment.

A lady at the placement agency is going to try to talk to the guy and see if he will give me a second chance, but I'm not that optimistic.

How do I improve when I was only given a week at most to prove myself?
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Old 06-27-2019, 10:38 PM   #2
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Sometimes you have to hit the ground running and fart roses to make the cut at a maintenance job. Building a work history and know how is not easy, but once established you wont worry anymore.

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Old 06-28-2019, 12:16 AM   #3
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Sounds like everyone in aggregate was not what the customer was looking for. Whether that was the fault of the group or the fault of the customer in not knowing what their needs are is the unknown. Also sounds like they didn't have a capable person making the decisions. I don't know how many of you guys they hired out of that placement agency but it sounds like they neglected to hire a chief who should have been hiring and directing the journeymen. Did this company recently take over this facility? Sounds like they have some organizing to do. Don't let all that fall too hard on your shoulders. I'm sure it's a bummer but the economy is good. There's plenty out there.
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Old 06-28-2019, 06:04 AM   #4
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i'm sure it's a bummer but the economy is good. There's plenty out there.

qft.
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Old 06-28-2019, 01:51 PM   #5
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At an old lead smelter, it might be that they only keep people 2 weeks because otherwise the exposure to the lead in the dust becomes a liability for them from a health care standpoint. So they just cycle through people as "recruits", never really intending to put them on permanently and having only spent 2 weeks there, you can't come back at them later with a lawsuit over lead exposure.
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Old 06-28-2019, 01:56 PM   #6
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At an old lead smelter, it might be that they only keep people 2 weeks because otherwise the exposure to the lead in the dust becomes a liability for them from a health care standpoint. So they just cycle through people as "recruits", never really intending to put them on permanently and having only spent 2 weeks there, you can't come back at them later with a lawsuit over lead exposure.
There's a requirement to do a blood test every month for high lead, and if you're a contractor you're laid off, but staff get to stick around.

Seems like I'm the only one affected for now.

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Old 06-28-2019, 01:57 PM   #7
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Sounds like everyone in aggregate was not what the customer was looking for. Whether that was the fault of the group or the fault of the customer in not knowing what their needs are is the unknown. Also sounds like they didn't have a capable person making the decisions. I don't know how many of you guys they hired out of that placement agency but it sounds like they neglected to hire a chief who should have been hiring and directing the journeymen. Did this company recently take over this facility? Sounds like they have some organizing to do. Don't let all that fall too hard on your shoulders. I'm sure it's a bummer but the economy is good. There's plenty out there.
I agree completely.

I seriously doubt if this is your fault, it sounds like your talent and experience (and likely a few others) is not what they're looking for.

Don't take it personal, another opportunity will come by that'll be a better fit.
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Old 06-28-2019, 02:14 PM   #8
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If they didn't like how electricians perform, they're going to have a blast with engineers doing the work
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Old 06-28-2019, 03:40 PM   #9
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At an old lead smelter, it might be that they only keep people 2 weeks because otherwise the exposure to the lead in the dust becomes a liability for them from a health care standpoint. So they just cycle through people as "recruits", never really intending to put them on permanently and having only spent 2 weeks there, you can't come back at them later with a lawsuit over lead exposure.

B I N G O !


Sounds more like reality.
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Old 06-28-2019, 05:57 PM   #10
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I thought the same myself. At least the electricians won't demand their own office.

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Old 06-29-2019, 09:26 PM   #11
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Do you believe in second chances? I'm trying to negotiate that right now. Whatever they want me to learn I think I can do it, rather than expect me to know how to do it right away.
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Old 06-30-2019, 12:36 AM   #12
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Do you believe in second chances? I'm trying to negotiate that right now. Whatever they want me to learn I think I can do it, rather than expect me to know how to do it right away.
industrial isn't for everyone.

We all know that it takes time to come up to speed so its more to do with the guys around you then the managers. If they felt you had a sound knowledge of the job and could come up to speed in a reasonable amount of time they would have covered your arse and put in a good word for you.

That job was probably not the best place to learn a trade that doesn't forgive fools. Old gear covered in a conductive dust would normally require a week of safety training before they let a skilled person loose on the floor. Add to that the dangers of working with a heavy metal like lead and the long term health affects it defiantly not a walk in and go to work type of job.

Im tempted to agree with jref unless i found that they had some full time employees that have worked there for years. It just sounds way to dangerous for me.
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Old 06-30-2019, 02:30 AM   #13
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It's not the first time he's lost a job. Might be a struggling Sparky. Ever think about getting more education?

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Old 06-30-2019, 08:00 AM   #14
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Seems like you have had some issues holding work. Man, working on larger gear in general is dangerous, let alone older gear and in those conditions. Count yourself lucky to be the hell out of there and find something else.


It is okay to want to expand a branch out into other aspects of the trade, but there is also nothing wrong with staying within your ability to earn yourself a living.

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Old 06-30-2019, 08:04 AM   #15
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At an old lead smelter, it might be that they only keep people 2 weeks because otherwise the exposure to the lead in the dust becomes a liability for them from a health care standpoint. So they just cycle through people as "recruits", never really intending to put them on permanently and having only spent 2 weeks there, you can't come back at them later with a lawsuit over lead exposure.
I had a job at an iron foundry a few years ago but declined it after talking to the older guys working there, graphite was EVERYWHERE and they all had a odd wheeze when they talked [think black lung]. That, and the low pay and draconian probation period caused me to walk away.
A lead smelter would only be worse, you're better off. This trade will beat you up under the best conditions, that would be worst conditions.
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Old 06-30-2019, 09:21 AM   #16
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A week? Sounds to me like they gave you a rusty tool box and told you to go and fix chit. A week is barely enough time to go through safety training, orientation, etc.

My advice if you want to get into industrial maintenance is to find a place big enough where you can get into facilities maintenance first. Essentially it means doing commercial work in an industrial setting. That gets your foot in the door.
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Old 06-30-2019, 09:56 AM   #17
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If I read between the lines they wanted someone that knows starters, drives, PLCs inside and out and can work without prints that are long gone anyway. Someone that can walk down the interlock chain in an old discrete relay starter to find the bad contact in a stop button long ago forgotten after 12 upgrades later. It takes a lot of experience to do that. I start guys out building and testing motor controls and PLC circuits in the shop where screwing it up is harmless. Tear down lots of broken stuff in the shop as a learning experience. It takes six months or more to get halfway decent at it. The trouble is there is no school that teaches industrial controls, no degree or certification for it. So it's hard to describe or find someone that can do it out of the box. You pretty much have to train them in house. The closest thing is an HVAC technician. I've seen engineers try to do it too. If they have training and experience as controls techs, they will do fine. But otherwise they're just as bad as commercial electricians with no controls experience. Companies see engineers from controls companies and assume that all electrical engineers can do the same thing.

The stuff you run into is like my day Friday. The job was at a feed mill. I started with they wanted a contactor replaced, part of a reversing set, based on what another contractor told them. The on site maintenance technician was at best a 2 year apprentice. I bought the mechanical interlock too because they are cheap and often the problem. Good thing as the contactor was fine, just the spring in the mechanical interlock broke so it locked out the contactor on one side. Once a I got it replaced (400 A hanging on flexible busbars, a one hour job) that's when the fun started. The guy before me was probably Kavanaugh. He's a local guy the feed mills call on but hes pretty clueless on controls. I saw the coil was disconnected but no telling what else he left. When they hit start the contactor pulled in and out three times. Then they got a start failure alarm and nothing ran but nothing else in one direction but not the other. Found a print from the manufacturer (was a customized soft start) and verified no site mods. The control wiring sends a forward or reverse run (two wire) command and there is run status feedback taken from the bypass contactor only. So whatever is going on is external to the starter. There were wire numbers so a couple cabinets later located the PLC. The output card was clearly firing three times but no inputs were changing states. No IO issues around the grinding mill like more disconnected or broken wiring. So this verified that it was something goofy the PLC was doing. It was unfortunately PLC troubleshooting time. So i had to break out the laptop and cordx and find the righf one and the right software license. Eventually got in and found a fan had to be running but only for one direction and the PLC checked that on a timer and some goofy lockout logic (3 strikes and you're out). It's the grossly overcomplicated type of code engineers typically write that often fails in unpredictable ways. Either way started the fan and everything worked as it should, 3 hours later. No prints except a controls schematic from a different controls company that did an upgrade and "took over" the controls. They tossed the original prints so only the new stuff had prints, not the older stuff I was working on. And this is on a 15 year old plant.

That's probably the expectation on top of wearing a full face respirator and all the usual industrial safety gear all day. It's a great place to learn from but it sounds like they're like the feed plant...They have no one to train you. I'd move on with this one but don't get discouraged. There are lots of places like that one that will train you but be prepared. They can give you time and opportunity but in reality you end up teaching yourself.

Usually in this situation the company knows what they want but will keep plugging away at failure after failure. They will pay outrageous money for a contractor like me to come in and do it. They will even offer me a job on the spot half the time. Then either management changes or they bite the bullet and take on someone and give them time to learn.

I've seen a tiny few companies do the practice of turning over temps when safety is an issue to avoid litigation. You can spot those a mile away when nobody is there longer than a month and nobody knows what is going on. In today's low unemployment environment that game doesn't work for more than 3 or 4 turns before they exhaust the pool.

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Old 06-30-2019, 03:12 PM   #18
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I spent a few weeks at the Lead Smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri for Shannahan Crane/Hoist company. Even back in 1993 we gave a blood sample day one and then one later on. Although I remember Cement and Copper plants being dustier.
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Old 06-30-2019, 04:09 PM   #19
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It's not the first time he's lost a job. Might be a struggling Sparky. Ever think about getting more education?

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What sort of education?

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Old 06-30-2019, 04:12 PM   #20
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I spent a few weeks at the Lead Smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri for Shannahan Crane/Hoist company. Even back in 1993 we gave a blood sample day one and then one later on. Although I remember Cement and Copper plants being dustier.
That didn't really bother me. It's being laid off after two weeks is the problem. A lot of my overall employment woes are due to where I'm living, which is why I'm planning on moving soon. It's hard to move though with no job lined up on the other end, which is why I think I need more schooling

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