Laboring on Holidays

I guess it’s just part of the growing up cycle in one’s career. As I sit at home on my Labor Day off, I’m remembering not being so fortunate. I’ve had to work my share of holidays, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Memorial Day for the most part.


The chemical industry runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Taking some shutdown time to do repairs, cleaning and installations of new equipment was usually scheduled around a holiday weekend. It gave the operators at the plant some time off and the construction workers and engineers didn’t get a vote. It went with the territory.

Prior to having children, I really didn’t mind it too much. I lived with my then-husband quite a distance from our relatives, too far away to travel for a three-day weekend. The management at the plant was kind enough to give compensated time meaning that the following weekend became my holiday.

We lived in the upstate area of South Carolina. It was a short four-hour drive to the beach or an hour to the mountains. The advantage, of course, was the lack of crowds following a major holiday at these vacation spots.

A project engineer is responsible for design and installation of various capital projects, and I always seemed to have to work during a holiday. The bulk of these projects required some major disruption to operations and so the startup of the piping and equipment waited for a break in the plant action.

Scheduling these shutdown activities can be an atrocious process that begins months before it commences. For every minute production is halted, the Company is unable to make any money. And since the Company CEO is in some remote area of the world, there is little understanding if a shutdown extends past the expected start time.

I’ve worked for plants that scheduled activities down to the minute. A room was set up and a huge copy of the schedule hung from the walls. We reported status through out the shutdown. Progress was tracked with highlighters and red pens. Archaic by today’s standards, but it got the job done and everyone knew how we were doing.

For those, like me, who are privileged to have this weekend off, enjoy it, crowds and all. For the ones out there working long shifts to help your company keep making money and maintaining jobs, I say ‘job well done’. Enjoy your next weekend crowd-free.




About stemzandroses

I'm an engineer and writer with a built-in need to share my nearly 40 years of experience working in a male-dominated field with the rest of the world.
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