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Personal: The Job

When I first posted about my new job last August I wasn’t particularly positive about it. It seemed like something I’d be doing because I needed the money and because office work wasn’t easy to find, and that it would suffice while I continued looking for other work. I’ve not applied for any jobs in the year between then and now and genuinely do enjoy myself, so I thought it was time I made a more positive post about what I do for a living.

Essentially my job is all about bits of wood.

Over in mainland Europe warehouses store their wares on Euro pallets, which are long and thin:

However, here in the UK the standard is Chep pallets, which are much wider:

This means that somewhere between goods being sent from Europe and arriving at their final destination in the UK (in this case supermarkets) they need to be transferred from one pallet type to another, which is where my workplace comes in. Goods arrive on Euro pallets, are stored within the warehouse and transferred by hand onto Chep pallets based on individual orders. Somewhere between seventy-five and eighty percent of those employed in the warehouse are involved in that part of the job, the rest dealing with hygiene, driving the tall reach forklift trucks (to get stock down from the shelves or store them up there), loading or unloading the trailers or my department: dealing with the pallets themselves.

The place needs an endless supply of Chep pallets brought in from their storage location outside, and once emptied the Euro pallets need to be taken out of the aisles to make room for new stock. That’s my department. There’s aso the grading process, making sure the pallets are fit for use. The day shift spend most of their shift checking the Chep pallets and removing any rubbish left over from their previous location (most come straight back from the supermarkets), while those of us on the night shift grade and arrange the Euros ready to be taken back to Europe.

It’s not mentally stimulating work, but then it doesn’t need to be. There’s a certain satisfaction in taking a mass of ungraded pallets and assembling them into neat stacks of graded ones, similar to the fun of organising one’s collection of DVDs, books or games. Requiring little thought also means that I get to spend most of the twelve hours just thinking about other things, something which I used to go on walks for to avoid the distraction of all the media at home, and at times the shift goes by so quickly because I’m thinking of other things. I honestly do enjoy myself there.

I’ve never learned to drive a car, never having had much interest in the freedom offered by having my own transportation (all my hobbies and interests are primarily based at home). At work I drive two vehicles, the first of which is the Low Level Order Picker that almost everybody uses as they go around picking goods and putting them on the Chep pallets:

On the pallet team the L.L.O.P. is used for collecting the Euro pallets and taking them to their proper storage locations, and for taking the Chep pallets into the aisles. They’re small and pretty zippy but the forks only raise a few inches, just enough to lift a pallet off the ground without making the vehicle or pallet unstable. I’m also one of the few people there trained on the counterbalance forklift truck:

These are also pretty fast, especially when compared to the taller reach forklift trucks, though it lacks the height of those. We use the electric ones inside for stacking the Euro pallets into tall stacks ready for loading onto trailers, as well as using a diesel one outside for assembling the big stacks for storage and for running smaller stacks inside (which are then transferred onto a L.L.O.P.). Though it’s not technically part of my job description I also spend a lot of time assisting the people loading or unloading the trailers with the forklift, as well as loading vans that come to the back door to collect smaller amounts of stock.

Having never really driven a vehicle before starting at this job (I never even learned to ride a bike) I found the training process difficult and was convinced I was going to fail the test for each vehicle, but in each case I did okay (mostly penalised for being slow, but seeing as touching the test barriers would have been an automatic failure careful driving seemed a better idea than speed). Now driving both is very natural and easy, but I still have no interest in learning to drive a car and going out on the road. Driving is a work thing, not a personal one.

On work days the twelve-hour shifts are fairly all-consuming, the day being almost wholly devoted to sleep, work and preparing for work, but having four days off is very nice indeed. My limited experience with people who work regular hours (along the lines of a nine to five, working five days a week) makes my hours/days compare favourably. While they have the entire evening off on workdays they mostly seem a little wiped by work anyway and aren’t interested in doing a lot of the things they enjoy to do on their days off, and of course they then only have the two days off. There are definite advantages to both systems then, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out by working the hours that I do.

That’s the job then as it currently stands. Right now I’m very settled there and enjoying it. Granted, I’m probably not going to want to do it for the rest of my life, making it very much just a job for now, but at the moment I’ve no intention of going anywhere.

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