Meet Lauren Harper. She and her father, Terry Harper, have been working together nearly every day for about eight years, and Lauren says they
make a great team. It’s not every day you meet a woman operating heavy construction equipment, but it just came naturally to Lauren.
“After a few years of college, I ventured out into a couple of different jobs but grew bored with them and decided to try my hand at the family company,” she said. “I’ve always loved being outdoors, and I soon realized that working hard and working outdoors was what I wanted to do.”
Lauren’s knack for managing excavation equipment around a job site turned out to be a perfect fit for the family business, Covenant Communications, based in Seguin, Texas.
Lauren carves out her day on a Kubota L47. “It’s my day-to-day machine but I learned on an L48. I’ve operated quite a few trenchers, excavators, and rock saws on top of the dreaded jack hammer that weighs more than I do! When the opportunity arises, I enjoy trying out new and different equipment.”
This daughter/father duo has a proven, steady hand on their equipment. They’ve been participating in Backhoe Rodeos at Texas811 Damage Prevention Council Safety Days and have dug a hole for the competition.
“We’ve only competed for two years and I’ve taken home first place at three different backhoe rodeos: the 2016 & 2017 Eagle Ford Safety Rodeo in Gonzales, Texas, and the 2016 Eagle Ford Safety Rodeo in Pearsall, Texas,” Lauren said with a smile. “My dad won first place as well in a separate devision in the 2017 Eagle Ford Safety Rodeo in Gonzales, Texas, and he placed second at the 2016 Eagle Ford Safety Rodeo in Pearsall, Texas.”
Winning a Backhoe Rodeo requires intense and precise control of your machinery and Lauren credits her delicate touch for her excellent work in the field. “It’s years of practice, plus most of the work we do is in confined spaces next to buried telephone, electric, water, sewer, gas lines, and other equipment. In that kind of environment, you have to learn to have a steady hand and a high awareness of how your machinery operates.”
Also needed is a high awareness of how the underground construction world operates. In all of its years in business, Covenant Communications has never had a dig incident. Lauren credits that to three little numbers – 811.
“We always call for locates. Always. And sometimes we even use our own locate equipment after the initial locate just for a backup,” she explains. The Harpers also know that having the locate done is just the beginning to safe excavations. “We take our time and hand dig where we are supposed to and we pay attention. We stay alert, and we don’t get overly confident.”
Lauren realizes that she’s a beacon in her field, but she takes it all in stride, saying that while she’s met a few other women on job sites, she hasn’t met any that run machinery. “I would have to say the average reaction when people see me operating is shock or surprise. It’s not every day
you see a woman on the job site, much less operating the machinery or down in the ditch with a shovel. My favorite reaction was a few years ago. A man who lived near a subdivision I was working on stopped and told me that his young daughter saw me and told him she wanted to be an operator when she grew up.”
For that little girl, or anyone else who does or wants to do her job, Lauren has some advice, “Be prepared for any kind of drastic weather change at all times. Be prepared to feel like you’re in a furnace or to be covered from head to toe in mud. This is hard work and it isn’t meant for just anyone. You have to be driven and you have to be ready for those tough days. If I was giving advice specifically to a female I would say to stand your ground and that respect will come if you can show that being a woman is an asset and not a hindrance. We work smarter, not harder.”
We want to bring attention to those people who go above and beyond to take actions that may prevent a damage or even save a life. Send your nominations to Michele@emailIR.com.
In this department we honor the many unsung heroes in all stakeholder groups . Some of the most important damage prevention efforts are those at the grass roots level. These heroes include locators, excavators, facility owners, technicians, people doing public awareness presentations, and executives who approve funding for effective damage prevention programs.