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The owner of a machine may be a company, while the person operating a machine (push buttons, feed material, etc) may be an employee of said company.

But is the company also the operator of the machine, as it owns the machine with the intent of having it active/in operation/doing work?

I'm trying to avoid confusion between the person pushing the buttons and the more abstract 'commisioning' (does that make sense?).

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

The company is also the operator. The way a company is regarded legally, it is an entity that acts through its employees. That's why you can say "Last year, Toyota sold a million cars." The company doesn't do any selling; it's the company's salespeople who did, but they did it on behalf of the company.

This only applies to acts that are within the scope of the employment. In your example, the company becomes the operator of the machine whenever the employee, as part of his job, pushes the buttons. However, if the employee eats a ham sandwich during his lunch break, the company does not become a "ham sandwich eater."

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So how could I distinguish operator (company) from operator (employee)? – user5000 Feb 14 '11 at 18:36

No, the company is only the owner of the machine. Indirectly, the company may direct the operation of the machine, but only the person pushing the buttons is operating the machine.

(You could use those words, "directly" and "indirectly" if you wanted to highlight or emphasize one role or another.)

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I don't think that's the case. The operator of a bus, for instance, would normally mean the company that owned and ran it, rather than the driver. Perhaps that's because there is another word available for a bus which there isn't for the machine. – Brian Hooper Feb 14 '11 at 12:49
Ah, you're correct. I was thinking of factory-floor type machines, which is the connotation the original question put into my head— although it doesn't specifically say so. – buildsucceeded Feb 14 '11 at 15:52
I would say that "operate" has a slightly different meaning when you're using it for, i.e., driving a bus as opposed to "pushing buttons, feeding material etc". No? – buildsucceeded Feb 14 '11 at 15:53

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