"The work that Hammerglass does is very important"
On our journey to increase the safety of machine operators, we have invited Amy Underwood - The Digger Girl – to become an ambassador for Hammerglass, our solutions and safe thinking. Our joint goal is to inspire other operators and machine owners, so that more people can get home from work safely. The first step to collaboration was, of course, to visit her in her own backyard in Scotland.
The small sea town of Oban, Scotland. Normally somewhat 8,000 people live here, but summertime the surroundings are crowded with tourists, eager to visit the famous Oban Distillery and taking boat trips out to the isles. Not far from here is the home of the construction industry's biggest influencers, The Digger Girl. Or Amy Underwood; her real name. She has been working as a plant and HGV operator since she was very young, together with her father in the family business, Underwood Plant Hire Ltd. A job she admits has its challenges and which she sometimes – when the Scottish weather is as windy and wet as it can be along British coasts – almost dreads.
“But I also can't imagine doing anything else, I love machines and I love working out in the countryside, here we are our own bosses and I get to do what I do best. This is my life and everything else that happens around me now is an unexpected bonus.”
That Amy would end up where she is today, with over 500,000 followers on social media channels and working with big brands such as HD Hyundai, Scania and Rototilt, was not even in her imagination when she started posting video clips from her daily work days during the pandemic. The videos showed everyday life in the cabin. There were no glamorous filters; it was monotonous digging, equipment that got stuck, wheels that got stuck, roads that collapsed, mishaps and successes edged by her genuine love for the job. Together with the wonderful landscape in the background, it was a combination that broke through the noise.
How do you want to manage and develop The Digger Girl?
“I would like to help attract young people to the profession, both girls and boys, and show the advantages of the job. I also meet a lot of children who think it's fun that I'm The Digger Girl and when I show them the cabin and how the machine works, they get overjoyed and some of them says that they want to be a digger like me when they grow up. I think the industry needs to attract new drivers from an early age and the industry also needs to do a better job of prioritizing its workforce so that the operators stay. When I was young, social media didn't exist the way it does today and I never saw any girls driving big machines, there was no one to be inspired by.”
Do you believe that young machine operators are aware of their rights to be safe during the working day? That their employer is obliged to equip their machine with the right safety screen for the job?
“My feeling is that most young machine operators do not know what they are entitled to, they probably jump into the cabin and set about the task they have been given... and hope for the best. This is why I think what Hammerglass is doing is so important, more information about rights is needed but also increased knowledge about the performance of different materials. I would like to be part of that journey and help in any way I can. Not everyone works in such calm environments as I do or in a small family business, but regardless of where you work, you should be able to feel safe.
“I saw Hammerglass products for the first time at Bauma and there you showed a machine cab where the front window had been pushed in by a massive stone colossus weighing ten tons, but it did not give way. The screen saved the operator’s life - or rather, whoever chose that particular screen for the machine saved the operator’s life. It made a strong impression on me.”
What advantages do you see with Hammerglass?
“A big advantage is that you don't need a safety grid in front of the window if you work in environments where stone chips is a risk, like I do myself. Bars obscure the view and dirt and gravel get stuck between the grid and the window, which spoils the fun of the job. An obvious advantage is that you become safer, I realized that when I compared Hammerglass and my machine's original window by throwing a stone at them. I didn't think there could be that much of a difference. Now I know what kind of screen I prefer to sit behind!”
KNOWN AS: “The Digger Girl”, a machine operator at John Underwood Plant Hire Contractor Ltd.
FAMILY: Two children, Ellie-Lou and Jonny, and partner Sandy MacCallum. Mum and dad. Her dad John is the owner of the family business, and he is also the reason and inspiration that led her to the life as a machine operator.
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