Literacy in the Factory

It is often assumed it is not necessary to be able to read to work in a factory. This is becoming less and less the case as factory equipment is becoming ever more complex and as safety procedures ever more tight. It might be the case that you can be a migrant worker in China fresh in from the countryside with no reading skills and be able to secure some type of work in a factory making alarm clocks or Christmas decorations for dollar shops abroad, but it is not the case in the USA.

Without reading and writing skills it is very difficult to fill out an employment form, to fill out your tax returns and to apply for social benefits. It is also difficult to get a driver’s licence without some basic literacy skills.

As the basic manual-labor orientated jobs are being outsourced to cheaper countries in South America and Asia, it means that the jobs that are available in Colorado and indeed the rest of the USA require skills.

For example, vacuum furnace with carbon fibre insulation requires a lot of studying in order to be operated safely. Not only are standard maintenance practices such as cleaning and lubrication required, but also constant monitoring is needed to check for leaks in the joints. There is a real risk with vacuum furnances of burns and electrocution if safety procedures are not followed. With oil diffusion pumps if the fill pump is opened while the oil is hot it can lead to an explosion. Maintenance of furnace chamber internals can only be done with correct space entry and electrical lockout procedures. If not residual gases can cause asphyxiation.

This example of the complexity of modern factory equipment clearly shows the importance of safety in the factory workplace. This can only be achieved by carefully studying machinery and being able to read safety manuals and pass written as well as practical safety tests.