1

The operator of a machine solely needs to be in control of the machine controls. Thus, they need to be physically in a location near the control panel, and in order to make sure nobody else pushes the button that would fry said operator, they need "visuals" of the area.

Do they observe the control panel or do they oversee it?

I'm afraid that to oversee is (visually) controlling an act carried out by another party — true?

4

To observe something is to see it with your eyes. To oversee something or someone is to be responsible for it/him/her (usually, sommeone oversees something by visually examining it from time to time, so that's where the word comes from).

Thus, the operator is both observing the panel because he is watching it and overseeing the machine because he is taking responsibility for its well-functioning.

  • 2
    A synonym of oversee is supervise. – kiamlaluno Feb 20 '11 at 21:27